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September 30th, 2019 by admin

Baghdad students slaughtered

A suicide bomber triggered his explosive vest packed with ball bearings outside the School of Economy and Administration in east Baghdad, the blast ripping through a crowd of young men and women.

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Terrified parents converged on the scene searching for their loved ones, some collapsing in horror at the sight of blood and human flesh splattered across the entrance of the building.

“They sold us out!” one man cried out, reflecting a growing sentiment that an 11-day-old US and Iraqi security plan has failed to protect the city from those determined to foment sectarian war.

A security official said at least 40 people were killed, and medics at the Imam Ali hospital said they were battling to save more than 30 critically wounded people, many of them female students.

An emotional minister of higher education, Abed Dhiab al-Ujaili, said most of the dead were students who had flocked to the school for a day of exams, and that five security guards had given their lives to protect them.

“What can you do?” he asked, his voice trembling. “Even the security can’t do everything. It’s very difficult to search everyone.”

The school is an off-campus annex of Mustansiriyah University, which was targeted by Sunni extremists on January 16, when a twin bomb attack killed at least 70 people and wounded around 140.

In another attack, a minibus exploded across the street from the Iranian embassy. Iranian officials said they had not been targeted, but it came amid mounting tension over Tehran’s relations with its war-torn neighbour.

The blast came during the morning rush hour when the road was packed with people heading for work in nearby Iraqi ministries.

The embassy was not damaged, but amid the wreckage could be seen at least four unexploded artillery shells. Had they also detonated, the devastation would have been widespread.

Death squad murders are down this month since the launch of a crackdown by around 90,000 US and Iraqi police and troops, but the bombings continue and fighting has intensified in the city’s outskirts.

The pressure of recent work has taken its toll on Iraq’s 74-year-old President Jalal Talabani has been evacuated to Jordan for medical tests after falling ill.

His office says doctors have asked for more tests and he’s gone to Jordan.

A senior member of Mr Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan the PUK says the Iraqi president is suffering from kidney problems and had been hospitalised for several hours in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah.

Mr Talabani a Kurd and the first non-Arab to lead an independent Arab majority state became head of state in April 2005 after the first election in Iraq since a US-led invasion overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

September 30th, 2019 by admin

McKew challenge ‘arrogant’

Ms McKew – a broadcast and magazine journalist for more than 30 years – has confirmed she will stand against Mr Howard in his northern Sydney seat.

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Bennelong was one of the Liberals’ safest seats, but a redistribution of electoral boundaries last year left the prime minister with only a four per cent margin.

Liberal Andrew Southcott said the Labor Party was getting cocky.

Mr Southcott’s comments echoed those of Mr Howard, who said last week that Labor leader Kevin Rudd was “getting a bit full of himself”.

“The Australian people always react badly against any hint of hubris, any hint of pride, and what we are seeing now is a very cocky Labor Party,” Mr Southcott told reporters in Canberra this morning.

Liberal David Jull said the fight for Bennelong would make good theatre, noting the story already was getting wide play in the media.

“I think it’s going to be very interesting, I was just listening to the ABC going all orgasmic this morning about it,” Mr Jull told reporters on arriving at parliament house.

“It’s going to be interesting to watch.

“But look, don’t forget that the prime minister is the prime minister, he’s been there for 30-odd years, he’s probably one of the most immaculate campaigners in Australia, I wouldn’t be getting my knickers in a knot.”

Liberal Warren Entsch said media stars did not automatically make great MPs.

“High profile media stars don’t necessarily make great members,” Mr Entsch said.

“Instead of sitting in judgment, they are going to be judged.”

Labor education spokesman Steven Smith ducked questions as to whether Mr Rudd was making good with a promise to play with the prime minister’s mind in the lead up to the election by fielding McKew in Bennelong.

“You would have to ask John Howard about the state of his mind,” Mr Smith said.

“I see it simply as putting forward a quality candidate for a Liberal seat and we have to win Liberal seats to win the election.”

Labor’s treasury spokesman Wayne Swan said Ms McKew had a tough fight ahead of her.

“She’ll have to get out there with a crowbar and dig him (the prime minister) out,” he said.

September 30th, 2019 by admin

Qantas changes causing concern

Qantas pilots will ask the Federal Court to rule that the airline’s subsidiary Jetstar is operating illegally.

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The Australian and International Pilots Association will argue Jetstar’s international services breach a section of the Qantas Sale Act which prevents the national carrier from operating international passenger services under another name.

News Ltd reports the union saying the Act requires Qantas to conduct scheduled international passenger services under the Qantas name or one that contains the word Qantas.

The union is worried Qantas could transfer its business to the subsidiary.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Howard has rejected calls for the government to stymie the $11 billion takeover bid for Qantas by using foreign investment rules to impose conditions.

The prime minister has dismissed pressure from his own back bench to intervene, The Australian Financial Review reports today.

Mr Howard refused to act, warning there would be a “savage reaction” from the business community if he interfered in the airline’s management.

It was not for his government to dictate how shareholders chose to sell their private property, he said.

He also declined to seek to cut the deal’s heavy debt levels, the paper said.

Debt to equity levels have been one of the key causes of concern in government ranks over the deal.

Airline Partners Australia consortium – led by major investment bank Macquarie Bank – has offered $11.1 billion for the flying kangaroo.

The bid, backed by the Qantas board, is now being examined by the Foreign Investment Review Board because some of the consortium’s members are North American private equity groups.

The board is due to report to Treasurer Peter Costello by March 7.

September 30th, 2019 by admin

PM ‘in tough election battle’

Ms McKew — a broadcast and magazine journalist for more than 30 years — has confirmed she will stand against Mr Howard in his northern Sydney seat.

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Bennelong was one of the Liberals’ safest seats, but a redistribution of electoral boundaries last year left the prime minister with only a four per cent margin.

The ABC’s electoral analyst Antony Green said the seat would act as a “litmus test” in the upcoming election.

“I think it really will be one to watch,” Mr Green told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

“If the Labor party wins the election, it’s likely they will win Bennelong.

“I can’t really see the situation where John Howard is defeated and the government is re-elected.”

Mr Green said the electorate had changed quite a lot since Mr Howard was elected 30 years ago.

“It’s a marginal seat nowadays,” he said.

“When John Howard first won it basically it was based on Lane Cove and Hunters Hill.

“It lost Lane Cove in 1993 and it lost Hunters Hill in 2001, so it’s been marginal as it’s lost those areas and gained areas in the west. It’s essentially that slow drift westwards.”

Mr Green said the ethnic composition of the electorate had also changed substantially over that period of time, as more migrants have moved to the area.

He said the prime minister would face a tough fight come election time, particularly as he will be doing most of his campaigning on television rather than in his electorate.

“He should be worried,” Mr Green said.

“The opinion polls are showing his government is behind, a Morgan poll in his electorate showed a roughly similar result to the national poll, so if there is a change of government it’s quite likely that seat would fall as well.”

September 30th, 2019 by admin

PM unfazed by McKew challenge

Mr Howard declined to speculate on the electoral prospects of himself or Ms McKew at the election to be held later this year.

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He said he had always had to fight to hold Bennelong, in Sydney’s north, and the recent redistribution of electoral boundaries made that even harder.

“But when I get news like this it only steels my resolve to work even harder for the people I have had the privilege of representing for the last 30 years,” he told the Nine Network.

“That is all I have to say about the Labor candidate.”

It was revealed last night Ms McKew, an ABC and magazine journalist for more than 30 years, would seek preselection for Bennelong.

Mr Howard declined to say whether he was concerned about the challenge.

“As I said a moment ago, when I get news like that my only reaction is to determine and resolve to work even harder for the people of Australia and that of course includes the people of

Bennelong,” he said.

Mr Howard said he would continue to represent both the people of Bennelong and Australia to the best of his ability.

He indicated he would campaign on the government’s economic record.

“I never take my seat for granted. It is quite a marginal seat,” he said.

The northern Sydney seat used to be one of the Liberals’ safest, but in 2004 it went to preferences. Mr Howard faced down a challenge from high profile Greens candidate Andrew Wilkie, a former intelligence agent.

The redistribution last year has left the prime minister with a narrow four percent margin.

A Morgan poll last week found Mr Howard would have lost the seat had an election been held this month, with 55 per cent of the 400 voters polled supporting Labor on a two-party preferred basis.

Only one Australian prime minister has lost his seat at an election, Stanley Bruce in 1929.

Ms McKew said last night Mr Howard was the most seasoned political campaigner in the country.

“I suppose I am thinking about this in a broader way. This is not about John Howard, this is not about Maxine McKew,” she told reporters.

“It is about Australia making a clear cut decision, as Kevin Rudd has said today, really a once in a generation decision about the kind of country we have, about how we want to use the present prosperity.”

“Australians ought to be asking this question and that is: `can we risk another three years of complacency?’.”

August 30th, 2019 by admin

Lawyers mount new Hicks action

He was defending an action brought this morning by lawyers for Hicks, who has been detained without trial at the US naval base since January 2002, to bring him home.

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The Federal Court judge presiding over the case found the notion of government non-responsibility curious.

Justice Brian Tamberlin said “If you’re captured by somebody overseas, there’s no duty to protect (the citizens). It’s a curious situation.”

Led by constitutional expert Bret Walker SC, the team of lawyers is arguing the federal government has breached its protective duty by failing to call for a fair trial for Hicks.

The action — against the federal government, federal

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and Foreign Minister Alexander

Downer — seeks declarations and an order that could lead to the release of Hicks from the United States military jail at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

US prosecutors are expected to lay charges of attempted murder and providing support for terrorism, but only when the charges are approved by former military judge Susan Crawford.

Hicks’s principal Australian lawyer, David McLeod, said the United Kingdom, by gaining the release of its citizens from Guantanamo, showed they had control over their citizens, and Australia should demonstrate similar control.

“All Australians should have confidence that if they are detained or in trouble overseas, their own government will do everything to ensure that they are treated fairly and according to the law,” Mr McLeod said.

The case continues before Justice Tamberlin, who first must decide whether he has jurisdiction in the matter.

August 30th, 2019 by admin

Happy Feet ends Oscar drought

Australian director George Miller has won the best animation Oscar for his penguin musical Happy Feet, breaking a drought after three nominations in 14 years.

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“Oh gosh,” a shocked Miller said as he walked on stage at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood to collect his Oscar.

“I asked my kids what should I say. They said ‘Thank all the men for wearing penguin suits.’

“They gave me a lucky coin, a lucky penguin, but my real good luck was to work with hundreds and hundreds of amazing people, a wonderful cast, great artists, computer whizzes, a studio that were passionate, people who cut trailers, dubbed the movie, got it into the theatres and on their behalf I thank the Academy for this.

“Thank you.”

The win broke Miller’s Oscar drought.

He has been nominated for Oscars three times before.

The first time was in 1993 for writing the screenplay for the drama Lorenzo’s Oil, starring Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte, but he went home empty-handed.

In 1996 Miller’s barnyard fantasy film, Babe, was nominated for the best picture and screenplay Oscar nominations, but he failed to win either.

The Happy Feet Oscar win is also a monumental victory for the Australian film industry.

Happy Feet was made at Sydney’s Fox Studios with a largely Australian crew of more than 500 and used the voices of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Steve Irwin and other Hollywood stars, including Robin Williams and Elijah Wood.

Animal Logic, the Australian special effects house based at Fox Studios, built an animation studio from scratch to make Happy Feet.

Bookmakers did not believe Happy Feet could win.

The overwhelming favourite for the animation Oscar was Cars, the blockbuster made by San Francisco-based, Disney-owned animation house Pixar, which had won two of the previous three Oscars for The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.

The other animated feature film nominee was Sony’s Monster House.

August 30th, 2019 by admin

Labor looking for more ‘stars’

Ms McKew, a broadcst and magazine reporter for more than 30 years, said she was redefining the term underdog by taking on the prime minister rather than standing in a safe Labor seat.

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She received a warm response on the streets of Bennelong as she chatted to voters in her first campaign event.

Government MPs went on the attack, with Health Minister Tony Abbott and backbencher Warren Entsch saying journalists did not necessarily make good politicians.

But Mr Howard said the challenge would only steel him to work harder for the people he had represented for the past 32 years.

Labor’s treasury spokesman Wayne Swan said Ms McKew was the kind of candidate the opposition needed to win this year’s election.

He indicated that Labor was looking for more high-profile recruits.

“To win 16 seats is a very big ask,” Mr Swan told reporters.

“We have to put together the best team and that means looking at all the options in terms of candidates around the country.”

Bennelong, in Sydney’s north, was once a safe Liberal seat, but changing boundaries and an influx of migrants have cut Mr Howard’s margin back to a skinny four percent.

Mr Howard said he had always had to fight to hold his seat.

“But when I get news like this it only steels my resolve to work even harder for the people I have had the privilege of representing for the last 30 years,” he told the Nine Network.

A Morgan poll last week found Mr Howard would have lost the seat had an election been held this month.

Only one Australian prime minister has lost his seat at an election, Stanley Bruce in 1929.

Ms McKew and her husband, former ALP national secretary Bob Hogg, live outside Bennelong in Mosman but are now house-hunting in the electorate.

Mr Abbott said he was disappointed to be losing a constituent – Mosman is in his seat of Warringah – and perplexed that Ms McKew did not run against him.

He said Bennelong residents would see Ms McKew as “Madam Blow-In”, while Mr Howard was in his electorate office almost every Friday seeing constituents.

“I think Maxine will find out she’s up against a formidable grassroots campaigner and all of the A-list celebrity skills that she’s got are not necessarily going to help her in Bennelong,” Mr Abbott told Sky News.

Mr Rudd said Ms McKew had demonstrated great courage to run against Mr Howard in the seat of Bennelong.

“It’s going to be a really tough election and to win a tough election we need a first class candidate – that’s why I’m very glad we’ve got Maxine running for the Australian Labor Party,” Mr Rudd said.

August 30th, 2019 by admin

PM ‘a formidable opponent’

The former ABC television and magazine journalist will stand against Mr Howard in his Sydney seat of Bennelong at this year’s election.

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Mr Howard, who has held Bennelong for 30 years, has a margin of only four percent after a recent redistribution.

“Regardless of how the prime minister looks, he is a formidable opponent for me. I might have a smile on my face but believe me I am the one feeling unsettled about this,” she told the Nine Network.

She said she was not suggesting Mr Howard had neglected Bennelong.

“That is not the point I am making at all. In fact if you go into Bennelong today people will say they respect the prime minister a great deal. I would think they will tell you a number of things,” she said.

“I don’t think there is anyone there who is saying we think he is the part-time member, not at all.”

Mr Howard has said he had always had to fight to hold Bennelong.

“But when I get news like this it only steels my resolve to work even harder for the people I have had the privilege of representing for the last 30 years,” he told the Nine Network yesterday.

Ms McKew rejected suggestions from various sections of the Labor Party that she could have been placed straight into a safe seat, saying standing against Mr Howard was the best contribution she could make to helping Kevin Rudd become prime minister.

She said she believed in what Mr Rudd stood for.

“I like the cut of the man. He has very well grounded values. He believes in the prosperity of the country and in everyone living the good Australian life,” she said.

“But he also believes we need to live in a sustainable way, that we need also to think about having an exclusive society. He believes equity.

“Part of my job in going in, if I am preselected as the Labor candidate in Bennelong, is to explain those values and further how those values arte going to be played out in Kevin Rudd’s policy plan for Australia.”

Ms McKew admitted that in her former life as an ABC journalist, she declared former Labor leader Mark Latham as a man whose time was coming soon.

She said that was just after his launch for the 2004 election campaign. But three or four days later she changed her view, prompted by Mr Latham’s policy on Tasmania’s forests.

“The politics was wrong. The policy was wrong. It was a complete disaster. That was a premature judgment call on my part and I got it wrong,” she said.

In a tongue in cheek reference to the rise of Maxine, political columnist Matt Price, writing in today’s The Australian newspaper, said he pondered asking Ms McKew and her leader: “Are you in love?”

Ms McKew told the Nine Network that was a great headline but untrue.

“I have got this gorgeous bloke called Bob. We have been together 17 years. He is my prince,” she said.

August 30th, 2019 by admin

Boat people future uncertain

Options for dealing with the group include returning them to Indonesia or processing them on either Nauru or Christmas Island.

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But Mr Andrews said they would not be returned to Indonesia without assurance that they would be processed under the guidelines of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) and resettled according to those guidelines.

"If we cannot have that sort of assurance in relation to any other country we are dealing with, then that rules that as an option out," he told ABC radio.

"We will act in accordance with our international obligations in that regard but we will also do it in a way which will ensure as far as possible, we deter people from trying to smuggle others around the world."

The 83 Sri Lankan and two Indonesian men were intercepted by the Australian navy in international waters last week and taken to Christmas Island, where they have been undergoing preliminary checks.

Sri Lanka's ambassador to Jakarta said Sunday Indonesian authorities had indicated they simply wanted to act as a transit point for sending the boat people back to Sri Lanka.

"Yes, certainly … they have made that request, and my staff are standing by to assist in any way possible to repatriate them if and when they arrive in Indonesia," Major-General Janaka Perera told ABC radio.

"If they are sent back to Indonesia, the Indonesian government (could) make this request from my nation and certainly, as we have done in the past, we will assist in the repatriation."

Mr Maj-Gen Perera said Sri Lanka could guarantee the men's safety if they were sent back to the island nation.

"Yes, of course. Why should we persecute our own people?" he said.

"We are fighting a terrorist organisation that wants to divide the country. The war, or the fight, is not with the Tamil people."

Asked if he expected the men to be returned to Indonesia later this week, Mr Maj-Gen Perera said: "I hope so. That's what I was made to understand."

But Mr Andrews said there had been no talks between Australia and Sri Lanka, but discussions with Indonesia were continuing.

"Our position has been absolutely clear and will remain clear.

That is that if they return to Indonesia – and this was only one of the options we have been exploring – then they must be under the UN High Commissioner for Refugees," he said.

Mr Andrews rejected suggestions that the group should be fully processed on Christmas Island without further consideration of other options.

"The message then is that these people get to a part of Australia, namely Christmas Island, which is the way in which we believe some of the people smugglers have been selling their wares so to speak to potential customers," he said.

"We want to say to people this is a dangerous activity”.

Meanwhile, opposition immigration spokesman Tony Burke Mr Burke has criticised the government's apparent reluctance to use the new Christmas Island centre.

He said the government had so far spent $396 million building the new immigration centre on Christmas Island.

"The 85 people concerned are now on Christmas Island – not because their boat reached there but because the Australian government brought them to Christmas Island," Mr Burke told ABC radio.

"They are now there at the processing station that nearly $400 million has been spent on. The government approach now seems to be that they still don't want to use it and instead they will look around the world to pay even more money to another country to get it done.

"I can't understand the logic of it at any stage."

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said the Sri Lankans were being held at the island's old immigration facility as the new centre would not be ready until towards the end of the year.