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April 29th, 2019 by admin

Campbell 'catches out gov'

The Federal Opposition says the Government has been 'caught out' after its attack on the Labor leader Kevin Rudd over his dealings with disgraced former Western Australia premier Brian Burke.

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Federal Human Services Minister Ian Campbell has resigned from Cabinet today after he revealed he also had dealings with Mr Burke.

Mr Burke was jailed in the 1990s for fraud and is now at the centre of a corruption investigation in Perth.

Senator Campbell in a written statement said his 20 minute meeting with Mr Burke and members of the WA Turf Club was to hear details of a development proposal.

The meeting took place in in June last year, when Senator Campbell was the federal environment minister.

Responding to Senator Campbell's revelation, a spokesman for Mr Rudd has told the ABC that "[Prime Minister] John Howard and [federal Treasurer] Peter Costello are now drowning in their own political mud".

It comes at the end of a week which has seen Mr Rudd's meetings with Mr Burke in 2005 under sustained attack from the Government.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has acknowledged he should not have met Western Australia premier Brian Burke three times in 2005.

Mr Rudd responded to a report in the West Australian newspaper which reproduced an email showing Mr Burke organised a dinner with Mr Rudd as the guest of honour.

"I went, as I said the other day in Canberra, as the guest of (Labor MP) Mr Graham Edwards, so what I said the other day stands," Mr Rudd told reporters in Melbourne.

"I went purely as Mr Graham Edward's guest," he said.

But the Labor leader seized on an admission by federal Human Services Minister Ian Campbell that he too had met with the controversial lobbyist.

"I think today's events demonstrate where Mr Howard's personal, negative mudslinging campaign has got to," he said.

Senator Campbell confirmed to The Australian newspaper that he had a meeting with Mr Burke in June last year, but said the meeting lasted 20 minutes and nothing resulted from it.

Mr Burke was lobbying Senator Campbell, who was the federal environment minister at the time, for his support for a redevelopment proposal for the WA Turf Club.

Treasurer Peter Costello said anyone who had had dealings with Mr Burke was morally and politically compromised.

Health Minister Tony Abbott said the meetings showed Mr Rudd was willing to "sup with the devil".

Mr Rudd and his deputy Julia Gillard were attending a state Labor conference in Melbourne, the first since Premier Steve Bracks secured his third consecutive victory.

Going into the conference, Ms Gillard defended Mr Rudd as a man big enough to admit his mistakes.

She said Mr Rudd had answered all the questions he needed to with the Canberra press gallery earlier this week.

Prime Minister John Howard was drowning in hypocrisy after revelations that Senator Campbell also met with Mr Burke, she said.

"He (Mr Howard) needs to work out, having created this muddy mess, how he's going to get himself and his government out of it," she said.

April 29th, 2019 by admin

Minister Campbell resigns

Senator Campbell said his resignation was in the government's best interest but said his dealings with Mr Burke were not like those of Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.

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"I had a 20-minute meeting in my Perth office with the WA Turf Club to discuss a proposal for an indigenous cultural centre," Senator Campbell said in statement.

"As well as turf club officials, Brian Burke attended, as did a state Labor MP.

"This was not a meeting in any way similar to those between Kevin Rudd and Mr Burke."

Mr Burke was jailed in the 1990s for fraud and is now at the centre of a corruption investigation in Perth.

The news of Senator Campbell's meeting with Mr Burke last June broke after days of attacks by the government led by Prime Minister John Howard on Mr Rudd over his contacts with the lobbyist and convicted felon.

"I have today tendered my resignation from the cabinet to the prime minister," Senator Campbell said.

"I strongly believe that this is in the best interests of the government."

He also told Network Ten he resigned because he wanted to see the government re-elected and did not want to provide a distraction.

The senator, who was environment minister at the time of the meeting, said by contrast Mr Rudd's appointments with Mr Burke on three occasions in 2005 were not coincidental.

"Mr Rudd's judgment has been seriously compromised and he must answer to the Australian people," he said in the statement.

"Clearly he has sought to conceal from the Australian people the nature of his meetings with Mr Burke."

April 29th, 2019 by admin

Terry Hicks wary on plea deal

Terry Hicks was responding to reports in Fairfax newspapers that US military prosecutors have held preliminary talks on a plea bargain with his son's legal team.

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"It doesn't matter what I say, it comes down to David," Mr Hicks told AAP.

"He's the one that's got to make up his mind whether he thinks 'take the easy option' or see what happens.

US authorities, he said, "may have gone on a weakening exercise on him to get him into a position where he may have had enough and plead guilty to anything to get out."

The 31-year-old Adelaide-born Muslim convert, who has been in US custody since he was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, was charged yesterday with providing material support for terrorism and referred to stand trial by a special military commission at the detention camp in Cuba.

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

Federal government sources are reported by the Sydney Morning Herald as indicating a guilty plea on the sole remaining charge could secure freedom for the accused terror suspect by taking into account time already served.

But Mr Hicks questioned whether such a result would constitute justice for his son.

"That's not 'free' though is it? When you enter into a plea bargain you're not coming out a free person, all you're coming out is a guilty person that's negotiated a way out," he said.

Mr Hicks said he had not yet spoken to his son's legal team including US military lawyer Major Michael Mori about the possibility of a plea bargain.

"All I know is Major Mori's made a comment 'why plead guilty if you believe you're not'."

Hicks' supporters contend that the new charge laid against him was only created last year and is being applied retrospectively.

The Australian government has always refused to bring Hicks home because it says there was no law under which he could have been charged at the time the alleged crimes occurred and it would have to retrospectively create a criminal offence under which to try him.

On Friday Mr Hicks took Prime Minister John Howard to task over the apparent contradiction during an exchange on regional radio.

Mr Hicks renewed his criticism today, saying Mr Howard's explanation yesterday – that the charge Hicks faces has been on the books since 1994 – was wrong.

"The law he quoted wasn't the one that David's been charged with.

"The one he's charged with now is October 2006. The one John Howard was talking about goes back to 1994 and it's got nothing to do with the one that he's been charged with. He was just trying to give a bit of spin.

"It's been retrospectively done and not only that they've built the law around what they think David's done and then charged him on it."

April 29th, 2019 by admin

George launches cyclone season

Communities at the top end of Western Australia have braced themselves for destructive winds and flooding.

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George is the first tropical cyclone of the WA season and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) believes the storm could develop into a severe cyclone over the next few days.

The storm system has already caused widespread damage, dumping torrential rain across the NT before it whipped up to cyclone force as it crossed the border into WA.

It has battered the northeast coast of WA, between Wyndham and Kalumburu, with destructive gusts up to 130 km/h, causing abnormally high tides and localised flooding, BOM senior forecaster Andrew Burton said.

Mr Burton said the force two cyclone would weaken overnight as it crosses land on its westerly path.

“It will struggle a bit overnight but then once it gets out over the water, in the west Kimberley, it should begin to intensify again and there is a very good chance of it becoming a severe tropical cyclone,” Mr Burton said.

George is the first cyclone of the WA season which runs between November and April, with most activity in the latter half.

Before it was upgraded to cyclone status it caused widespread damage in the NT, closing roads, cutting off communities, causing evacuations and washing out a three to five kilometre section of the Adelaide to Darwin railway line.

A flood watch under the Katherine Region Flood Plan was declared but NT police commander Greg Dowd said the area’s residents should not panic.

“The watch is declared to forewarn people in low-lying areas that they need to be making decisions about what action they need to take to protect their property in those areas,” he said.

“Advice we have is that the catchment area for the Katherine River has not experienced significant rainfall in the past 24 hours or so.”

Forty homes were evacuated in Oenpelli yesterday and police said more than 90 people in public shelters were faring well after being provided with meals and bedding by local volunteers.

April 29th, 2019 by admin

Campbell denies deal to return

Sacked federal minister Ian Campbell denies he has a deal to return to the government front bench should the coalition win this year's election.

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Federal Human Services Minister Campbell resigned on Saturday after revealing he had held a 20-minute meeting with convicted fraudster and former West Australian Labor premier Brian Burke last year.

Four state Labor ministers have been sacked or forced to resign over their connections with the former premier over the last six months.

The Western Australian Corruption and Crime Commission is investigating the activities of Mr Burke.

Mr Campbell announced his resignation saying it was in the interests of the government, and he did not want to be a distraction in an election year.

However Prime Minister John Howard has said there is no reason for Senator Campbell to be excluded from a future career within the coalition government.

Senator Campbell has denied Mr Howard promised him he could return to the front bench if the government won this year's election.

"I have got no deal whatsoever, no assurance. You can't get those in this game, and that would be improper," he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

His resignation put the spotlight back on Labor leader Kevin Rudd, who is under pressure to explain why he met with Mr Burke three times in Perth in 2005.

Senator Campbell said he had resigned so the Australian people could have a "clear view" of Labor leader Kevin Rudd.

"I resigned for, I think, a good reason," he said.

"I think it's incredibly important that the people of Australia have a very clear view of the leader of the opposition and his concealment of what occurred here in Perth a couple of years ago."

Senator Campbell said business people who had been at a Perth dinner attended by Mr Rudd and Mr Burke had told him the opposition leader was not telling the truth about what happened there.

"I have spoken to some of the business people who attended that dinner, and some of them have said that what Mr Rudd is now saying about those dinners … they know that Mr Rudd is not telling the truth.

Senator Campbell said his meeting with Mr Burke had been very short and he only went ahead with it reluctantly.

"What he (Mr Burke) did, obviously, is he big-noted himself by showing his clients he could get in to see a federal minister, and I was a fool to have let that occur," Senator Campbell said.

He said his transgression had been minor and it was now time for Mr Rudd to come clean on his meetings with Mr Burke.

"I have told the full truth about it, and it's now time for Kevin Rudd to tell the full truth about what he did and his dealings with Mr Burke," Senator Campbell said.

"If he wants to be prime minister of this country it's time he came clean and told the full truth about that."

Senator Campbell said Mr Rudd was a bigger risk to the country than former Labor leader Mark Latham, because he had been trained to conceal his character flaws during his time as a diplomat.

"With Mr Latham at least what you saw was what you got – he was sort of an angry young man.

"Kevin Rudd is at least as dangerous, but he is more dangerous because he has got this smooth facade of the diplomat covering up, I think, some deep character flaws," Senator Campbell said.

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.