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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."

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Blasts heard as French siege continues

French police stepped up pressure on a besieged al Qaeda militant who boasted of having ‘brought France to its knees’ with a wave of brutal attacks that left seven dead.

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The sound of blasts and gunshots were heard overnight near the flat in Toulouse, southern France, where the gunman was holed up for a second day.

One source said anti-terrorist officers besieging the apartment had exploded a series of charges before and after midnight to intimidate the 23-year-old suspect, who has claimed responsibility for the seven murders.

Prosecutors said Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, had fought off several police assaults on the flat on Wednesday and bragged to negotiators of having been trained by Al-Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“He expressed no regret apart from not having had enough time to kill more victims and even boasted of having brought France to its knees,” France’s top anti-terror prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters.

The drama began in pre-dawn raids on Wednesday, and the French authorities are convinced that they have surrounded the right man and that he has no hostages with him.

While there were no obvious signs of an imminent police assault on the gunman early Thursday, a source close to the enquiry said that the final denouement was not far off.

A police source played down talk of an assault on the flat.

“He said he wanted to give himself up. He changed his mind, so we’re stepping up on the pressure on him to surrender,” he said.

There was no indication of an exchange of fire following the blasts. Merah is thought to be armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Mini-Uzi submachine pistol and a collection of handguns.

Molins said Merah had claimed responsibility for three shootings over the previous 10 days in which three French paratroopers, three Jewish children and a teacher were killed in cold blood, shocking the nation.

He claimed to be avenging Palestinian deaths and opposing the French military’s involvement in Afghanistan and France’s ban on full-face veils.

French public broadcaster France 2 has identified this undated photo of a man as Mohamed Merah, suspect in the recent shootings at a Jewish school and of French paratroopers. (AP)

Molins said the suspect had shot and wounded two elite officers after police first raided the Toulouse apartment building before dawn on Wednesday.

“Mohamed Merah explained that he belonged to Al-Qaeda. He explained he had been trained by Al-Qaeda in the Pakistani-Afghanistan region in Waziristan,” Molins told reporters in Toulouse, scene of two of the shootings.

Waziristan is a tribal area straddling the Afghan-Pakistani border which is known as a haven for Islamist insurgents — including Al-Qaeda militants — connected to Taliban guerrillas fighting in both countries.

Molins said the suspect had gone to the region twice and on one occasion had been arrested by Afghan police and handed over to US army troops, who put him on a flight back to France.

“He said he does not have a suicidal spirit, he did not have a martyr’s soul, he preferred to kill and remain alive,” said Molins, adding that the killer had claimed to have always acted alone.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said Merah received orders from Al-Qaeda.

“He explained how… he had even been suggested to carry out a suicide mission and refused, but agreed to carry out a general mission to commit an attack in France,” Gueant told TF1 television.

Police and prosecutors said they had arrested Merah’s mother, brother and his brother’s girlfriend as part of the inquiry. Sources said the suspect had been known to the domestic security service for some years.

After the failed police assault on the first floor flat in Toulouse where Merah was living, the two sides settled down to an armed siege. During the day Wednesday other residents were evacuated from the building.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for re-election in an April-May vote, told religious representatives at a meeting in a police station near the siege site that the gunman had planned to carry out another attack Wednesday.

Molins told reporters that Merah had chosen two Toulouse policemen to target for future assassination and planned to kill another soldier.

Gueant said the suspect had thrown out a .45 pistol used in the seven murders.

He also defended law enforcement from criticism for missing danger signs.

“In France you do not get sent to prison for professing strange or extremist ideas,” Gueant told AFP.

The siege came as the Jewish victims of the attacks were being buried in Jerusalem and two of the soldiers were being laid to rest, one in France and one in Morocco.

The shootings began on March 11, when a paratrooper of North African origin arranged to meet a man in Toulouse to sell him a scooter.

Four days later three more paratroopers from another regiment were gunned down, two of them fatally, in the same fashion in a street in the nearby garrison town of Montauban.

The pair — Corporal Abel Chennouf, 25, and Private First Class Mohammed Legouade, 23, — were also French soldiers of North African origin.

Then on Monday the shooter, again wearing a motorcycle helmet and riding a scooter, attacked the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, killing a religious studies teacher, his toddler sons and a seven-year-old girl.

Sarkozy and several rival candidates for the presidency attended a memorial ceremony for the slain soldiers at their barracks in Montauban.

Sarkozy returned to Paris, where his office said US President Barack Obama had called to offer condolences, adding: “France and the United States are more determined than ever to fight together against terrorist barbarism.”

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Police arrest 14 in child porn ring

Australian Federal Police (AFP) have raided properties in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and the ACT with one of the men arrested allegedly in possession of images and videos that would have required 24 standard laptops to store.

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The original discovery of the child porn ring came in Germany, with a tip-off from Interpol alerting the AFP to the alleged involvement of Australians.

“With the execution of our final two search warrants this morning that has resulted in one further arrest,” the AFP’s head of cybercrime operation Glen McEwen told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

“So for this particular investigation we are now up to 14 offenders. There is another person assisting the AFP with their inquiries.” Commander McEwen couldn’t confirm where the images and video that had been seized was originally shot.

He also didn’t know if any Australian children were involved but said various ethnicities were represented in the material.

The 14 men are facing federal charges in relation to accessing and making available child exploitation material as well as state-based possession of child pornography charges.

The covert AFP investigation was codenamed Operation Belfort. It targeted a number of Australians allegedly accessing, downloading and possessing child abuse images over a file-sharing network.

Police began investigating the group in late 2011 and during the past week executed search warrants across Australia, seizing computers, hard drives, laptop computers, portable storage devices and mobile phones.

Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare said the 14 arrests represented a important breakthrough “smashing an alleged child exploitation ring and taking hundreds of thousands of child exploitation images and videos out of circulation”.

“The work the AFP are doing to protect our children against predators who seek to harm them is tough and I congratulate them on the work they are doing,” he said in a statement.

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Dads among those arrested in child porn ring

Fourteen men, including fathers, have been arrested across eastern Australia following the discovery of hundreds of thousands of pornographic images and videos of children.

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Australian Federal Police (AFP) searched 19 premises in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and the ACT and laid 27 charges after receiving a tip-off from Interpol last December.

The peer-to-peer file sharing network, which involves the sharing of information without using a central server, was originally discovered in Germany.

AFP cybercrime operations manager Glen McEwen said hundreds of thousands of images and videos were seized and some involved toddlers.

“They are atrocious,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Friday. “Allow me to place on record my personal disgust of the abhorrent nature of activity associated with the exploitation of children.”

The arrested men were aged between 21 to 64 and some were fathers, Commander McEwen said.

“The reach of the internet, which has no geographical physical boundaries, attracts all walks of life,” Commander McEwen said. “You just never know who could be involved in this.”

The charges cover accessing, making available and possessing child pornography. The terabytes of images and videos were found on hard drives, laptops, mobile phones and portable storage devices.

Commander McEwen said the AFP would work with international agencies to determine the identities of the victims depicted.

He said he didn’t know if any Australian children were involved but various ethnicities were represented in the material. A 15th man was assisting the AFP with its inquiries.

The Victorian men were arrested in Warranwood, Bulleen, Kings Park, Croydon and Southbank.

In NSW, arrests were made in Colyton, Neutral Bay, Petersham, Carramar and Dulwich Hill, while in Queensland police made arrests in Mount Warren Park. Police also arrested men in Franklin and MacGregor in the ACT.

A 21-year-old Bulleen man and Warranwood man, aged 62, were expected to face the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.

Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare welcomed the arrests which followed a covert AFP operation code named Operation Belfort.

“This is a really important breakthrough – smashing an alleged child exploitation ring and taking hundreds of thousands of child exploitation images and videos out of circulation,” he said in a statement.

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Toulouse shooting suspect dead

A suspected al-Qaeda militant behind a wave of killings in France has died in a shootout with police who moved into his flat to end a lengthy siege.

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The exact circumstances of his death were not immediately clear, but a police source said the suspect, identified by police as 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, had died while resisting RAID special police forces who had moved into the apartment in Toulouse.

Three police were wounded in the assault, one “fairly seriously”, police sources said.

Sustained bursts of gunfire were heard outside the apartment shortly after sources said police were moving “rapidly” to end the siege, but progressing “step by step” through the apartment in fear of booby traps.

A total of around 300 shots were fired.

Three loud explosions near the apartment were heard shortly before police said the officers had moved in, and an ambulance was then seen passing through a security cordon.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant arrived at the scene right before the blasts, an AFP reporter said. France’s chief anti-terror prosecutor, Francois Molins, was also on site.

Merah had been holed up since overnight on Wednesday after being tracked down by police as the main suspect in a wave of shootings that killed seven people, including three soldiers and three Jewish children, was holed up.

Gueant had earlier said police had lost contact with Merah but that he had told authorities he wanted “to die weapons in hand”.

Prosecutors said Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, had fought off several police assaults on the flat on Wednesday and bragged to negotiators of having been trained by al-Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“He expressed no regret apart from not having had enough time to kill more victims and even boasted of having brought France to its knees,” Molins told reporters on Wednesday.

The drama began in pre-dawn raids on Wednesday, and the French authorities are convinced they have surrounded the right man and that he had no hostages with him.

After two police were shot wounded when they attempted to raid the apartment, authorities evacuated the building, turned off electricity in the neighbourhood and settled in for the siege.

Officials had said Merah was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a mini-Uzi submachine pistol and a collection of handguns.

Molins said Merah had claimed responsibility for three shootings over the previous 10 days in which three French paratroopers, three Jewish children and a teacher were killed in cold blood, shocking the nation.

He claimed to be avenging Palestinian deaths and opposing the French military’s involvement in Afghanistan and France’s ban on full-face veils.

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Greek central bank cautiously upbeat

Greece now has “relatively few” problems left to solve following a “very rough” several years of recession and harsh austerity cuts, the country’s central bank said in a cautiously upbeat annual report.

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“In the past few years, we have covered some very rough ground at high cost to the whole of Greek society,” central bank governor Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday.

“If we can address the relatively few issues still pending and complete the first phase of the effort launched in 2010, we will then be able to move on to the next phase, in which the growth potential of the economy will be considerably enhanced.”

He was also upbeat on economic output after last year’s return to growth of 0.7 per cent following six straight years of recession in which gross domestic product (GDP) contracted more than 25 per cent.

“Based on the latest available data, GDP growth is projected to be positive in 2015 and to pick up in 2016,” Stournaras said.

The main risks to growth in the medium term are of Greece not fulfilling the terms of its 240-billion-euro ($A345-billion) bailout, a deterioration in public finances and “reform fatigue,” he said.

“If these uncertainties can be contained, then the economy can and should continue to recover in 2015, driven by exports of goods and services and by private consumption and supported also by rising business investment,” he said.

On Tuesday Greece’s new anti-austerity government secured from its creditors a four-month extension to its bailout with a list of planned reforms and after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras toned down some of his election campaign promises.

The International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and Germany, the biggest contributor to Greece’s bailout, have however stressed that Athens still has a huge task ahead of it to solve its many problems and stay in the euro.