‘Freedom matters’: Turnbull strikes back

Malcolm Turnbull has hit back after being criticised for following a social media campaign to oust his old political rival Tony Abbott from the seat of Warringah.
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Mr Turnbull raised eyebrows earlier this week after following an Instagram account called “Vote Tony Out”.

“It’s pretty obvious really but following someone on Instagram or Twitter does not imply support approval or endorsement – simply that you are for whatever reason currently interested in seeing the followed person’s posts in your feed,” he tweeted on Thursday.

“And another equally obvious point. The more you try to bully people into NOT reading something the more they will do so. Freedom matters.”

Mr Abbott has offered his old political foe the benefit of the doubt.

“Maybe he’s just keeping an eye on them so he can help me more effectively,” Mr Abbott told 2GB radio on Wednesday.

“There are lots of people who follow sites not because they particularly support the site but because they want to know what the bad guys are up to. That’s the interpretation I’d like to put on it.”

On Tuesday night, a small but vocal Liberal Party branch in Sydney passed a motion calling on Mr Turnbull to be expelled by the NSW division.

The Roseville branch on the north shore voted 16-2 in favour of the motion which urges the party to kick the former prime minister out.

“What the Roseville branch does is a matter for the Roseville branch,” Mr Abbott said.

“I think it would be a pretty radical thing for a political party to no longer want someone who had until recently led it, and I’m not normally in support of radical things.”

Mr Abbott said it was the duty of all Liberals to work for and not against the party’s candidates.

“Malcolm gave me plenty of support in Warringah last time, and if he’s going to get involved at all that’s what I’d be hoping for this time,” he said.

Party sources said the Roseville motion was not binding and does not reflect the view of the NSW division.

Some Liberals were angry at Mr Turnbull’s lack of support during the Wentworth by-election, which he triggered when he resigned from the seat after being dumped as prime minister.

Roseville is in the federal electorate of Bradfield, held by cabinet minister Paul Fletcher.

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US chief justice rebukes Trump on comments

Chief Justice John Roberts has defended the US judiciary over President Donald Trump’s criticism.US Chief Justice John Roberts has strongly defended the federal judiciary a day after President Donald Trump referred to a judge who ruled against his policy barring asylum for certain immigrants as an “Obama judge”.
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The remarks marked the first public response by Roberts to Trump over the Republican president’s frequent criticism of the federal judiciary. Opponents of Trump have called his criticism of judges an attack on the rule of law in the United States.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts, a conservative who was appointed by Republican former president George W. Bush, said in a statement released on Wednesday by the Supreme Court in response to a news media inquiry.

“What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for,” Roberts added.

It is unusual for a US chief justice, who presides over the nine-member US Supreme Court, to issue such a statement in response to a president. The US Constitution established the federal judiciary as a co-equal branch of government with the executive and legislative branches as part of a system of checks and balances on power.

Trump on Tuesday took aim at US District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco, who on Monday temporarily blocked an order by the Republican president that barred asylum for immigrants who enter the country illegally from Mexico, the latest courtroom defeat for Trump on immigration policy.

Tigar was appointed by Democratic former president Barack Obama.

Though Trump was reacting to the ruling by Tigar, he also blasted the entire San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from federal courts in nine western states including California.

Trump called the 9th Circuit unfair and a “disgrace”. That court has ruled against Trump’s administration in several high-profile cases including his travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries and his bid to rescind a program that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants brought into the country as children.

“Everybody that wants to sue the United States, they file their case in the 9th Circuit, and it means an automatic loss no matter you do, no matter how good your case is,” Trump said on Tuesday.

Judges in that region have also blocked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project Trump has championed, and his administration’s effort to restrict the military service of transgender troops.

In the asylum case, Tigar issued a temporary restraining order against the asylum rules, calling them an “extreme departure” from prior practice.

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Big business laments NEG in front of PM

Business Council of chairman Grant King has mourned the axed National Energy Guarantee.The chair of ‘s peak big business lobby has told Prime Minister Scott Morrison he laments the coalition’s failure to pass “sensible energy and environment policy”.
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Business Council of chairman Grant King mourned the scrapped National Energy Guarantee during a speech on Wednesday night at the council’s annual dinner.

With the prime minister on the head table, Mr King told the dinner many of his members had worked hard on the NEG.

“This is a matter that many of our members feel very strongly about,” he said.

“Whilst we certainly know the importance of competitive energy prices for companies and the community, the issues are more complex than this.

“The community expect all jurisdictions across all levels of government to work with business to deliver leadership on this issue.”

The NEG, the coalition’s one-time signature energy plan, was abandoned when Malcolm Turnbull was ousted as prime minister.

Mr Morrison insisted in October the government was still pursuing a reliability guarantee with state and territory governments, a feature of the NEG.

Mr King said “sensible energy and environment policy” was one of the two most significant policy issues the BCA advocated for in 2018.

The other – a more competitive tax rate for big business – also failed to make it to law.

“This (tax) issue will not go away and it will certainly be addressed by a future parliament,” he said.

Mr King said he feared that in the absence of major economic reform, the prospects for ‘s future will diminish.

“In short, growth matters and we need good policy to drive growth,” he said of the BCA’s 2019 agenda.

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Renae Lawrence arrives home in Newcastle

Bali Nine heroin smuggler Renae Lawrence has landed in her hometown of Newcastle after spending 13 years in jail in Indonesia.
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Lawrence had initially flown with her mother Beverley Waterman and step-brother from Indonesia to Brisbane early on Thursday morning after being freed from a Bali jail overnight.

The 41-year-old former panel beater and her family were the last passengers to alight from their connecting flight to Newcastle after it touched down at 1115am AEDT.

Lawrence walked quickly across the tarmac and was confronted by a scrum of reporters, photographers and camera crews who chased her through the arrivals terminal and out the main exit.

She jumped into a waiting white car and tried to put towels over the rear passenger windows before her mother and stepbrother jumped in alongside her in the back seat.

The car was surrounded by camera crews and photographers, with Lawrence putting one of the towels over her head as she waited to be driven away.

They sped off about five minutes after alighting from the aircraft.

There were no NSW police waiting for Lawrence as she arrived in Newcastle.

Officers remain keen to talk to her about a high-speed car chase that happened not long before she was arrested at Bali airport in 2005, with 2.7kg of heroin strapped to her body.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has indicated a deal with her lawyers was more likely than her being arrested on the tarmac.

Lawrence had earlier faced chaotic scenes when she arrived in Brisbane where she had to dodge a large media pack waiting to ask her questions.

She appeared anxious and teary as she and her family quickly boarded an airport bus and travelled from Brisbane’s international terminal to the domestic terminal to catch their flight to Newcastle.

Her mother described her daughter’s return to a barrage of media and cameras as “overwhelming”.

After arriving at Brisbane’s domestic terminal, Lawrence and her mother sat quietly at the departure gate waiting for their flight.

Lawrence seemed subdued as she chatted quietly, glancing out at the planes on the tarmac and occasionally using a mobile phone.

Asked if she wanted to take a moment to talk about her homecoming Lawrence, looking teary-eyed, declined, and her mother told AAP: “It’s very overwhelming.”

Earlier at the international terminal, Mrs Waterman begged journalists to leave her daughter alone.

“We don’t want to comment. We’ve got nothing to say. Please, just leave us,” she told reporters soon after she and her daughter disembarked and tried to make their way to the customs area.

But later, when Lawrence was again asked if she had anything to say she spoke in Indonesian, which translated as: “Thanks to the government of Indonesia, that’s it.”

Lawrence was released from a Bali prison on Wednesday after serving 13 years for her role in a plot to import more than 8kg of heroin to from Indonesia.

She is the first member of the Bali Nine to taste freedom after serving time in three Indonesian jails.

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ASIC chair defends relationship with banks

ASIC’s boss denies being too friendly with the big banks and financial institutions or failing to investigate them for misconduct.
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Chair James Shipton accepts the corporate regulator needs to up the ante, after being slammed by the banking royal commission for letting much of the widespread misconduct in the financial sector go unpunished.

But Mr Shipton argues the n Securities and Investments Commission lacks the resources it needs to do its job properly.

Asked if ASIC has failed to commence formal investigations against large financial institutions when it should have, Mr Shipton took issue with the word fail.

He said ASIC only has 240 enforcement staff – the ACT has nearly three times that number of sworn police officers – to deal with 12,000 complaints and 2000 breach reports by financial services licensees each year.

“We have to make real-time decisions as to which matters we can investigate,” Mr Shipton told the royal commission on Thursday.

“I would not consider the very difficult real-time choices and very hard choices as a failure.”

Mr Shipton described his regular contact with bank CEOs and boards, and that of other ASIC commissioners, as forming part of professional working relationships.

Mr Shipton, ASIC’s chair since January, said there were also formal meetings, dismissing a description that they were get-togethers.

He agreed there were risks with frequent personal contact between regulators and the leaders of the entities they regulate.

“That is why I personally exercise the highest degree I can possibly apply of professional judgment when I have these interactions, when I have these meetings,” he said.

One of the risks was the contact could be seen by the other side as too familial, friendly and social, he said.

He has called CEOs of companies regulated by ASIC to express his dissatisfaction about issues including legal trench warfare, a lack of professionalism in the n financial sector.

“I have also spoken to these leaders, to a man and a woman, about the fact that I believe that they have forgotten that they are dealing with other people’s money.”

ASIC now has a wider regulatory remit than comparable market conduct regulators overseas, but its staff numbers and budgets have only increased modestly, the inquiry heard.

Mr Shipton said ASIC was under-resourced and therefore restricted in its ability to pursue matters the way it wanted.

“We are constrained in probably every aspect of our regulatory work.

“It’s certainly in investigations, certainly in matters relating to enforcement, but I would also make the case that we are constrained in our surveillance, our supervision, our important work on financial capability, and other work that we undertake.”

Mr Shipton agreed ASIC needed to take more enforcement action over misconduct, including through the courts, and be quicker and more robust.

He said ASIC also recognised that in the case of a number of financial institutions, its previous tactics have not been as successful as hoped.

“Therefore we need to up our ante and be more agile in the deployment of that enforcement tool.”

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Tas gender law push hits upper house

Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous says Tasmania’s gender bill isn’t based on “biological facts”.Transgender activists will brief members of Tasmania’s upper house on Thursday in a push to remove gender from birth certificates in the state.
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Landmark transgender rights reforms, put forward by the Labor opposition and the Greens, passed the Tasmanian lower house on Tuesday night.

The changes weren’t supported by the Liberal state government but were passed on the casting vote of rogue Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey, who voted against her party.

The reforms allow parents to decide whether their child’s gender is recorded on birth certificates, and people aged 16 or older to change the gender on their birth certificate by filling out a statutory declaration.

The bill must now pass Tasmania’s 15-member upper house, nine of whom are independents, to become law.

Labor MP Ella Haddad has indicated the party’s four legislative council members will support the legislation.

“It’s not going to impact anyone in Tasmania who’s not gender diverse. But for those of us who are, it’s going to make our lives so much easier and so much safer,” said Roen Meijers, spokesperson for Transforming Tasmania, a transgender and gender-diverse rights group.

“When young people want to apply for jobs, and they have to show their birth certificate to show their age, they won’t immediately be outed to everyone they’re working with.”

Meijers said Transforming Tasmania had spoken to members of the upper house several months ago and would conduct more briefings on Thursday.

The state government has said the changes to the Births, Deaths and Marriage Act are poorly drafted, with Health Minister Michael Ferguson describing it as a “social experiment”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted Labor’s plan to remove gender from birth certificates was “ridiculous”.

In a statement, Catholic Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous said the legislation “takes us down a road where the law is not based on objective biological or historical facts and reality but on subjective criteria based in human feelings”.

An upper house vote isn’t expected until next week.

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California fire evacuees prepare for rains

Heavy rains will hamper the search for remains but aid firefighters battling California’s wildfires.Heavy rains expected in northern California will bring more misery to evacuees who have yet to find permanent shelter while it will aid firefighters.
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The weather is also expected to hinder search teams sifting through ash and rubble for the remains of victims of the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history.

As much as nearly 20cm of rain is forecast to fall by Friday in areas around the town of Paradise, a community of nearly 27,000 people 280km northeast of San Francisco that was largely incinerated by the Camp Fire. The blaze killed at least 81 people and left hundreds missing.

The storm will help firefighters still battling the fire but create more suffering for many residents left homeless by the disaster.

Some of the homeless, whose numbers have not been determined, are camping out in parking lots rather than staying in emergency shelters.

Forecasters said the rains, which in some areas are likely to be accompanied by winds of up to 72km/h, might also cause rivers of mud and debris to slide down flame-scorched slopes stripped of vegetation. The fire has burned across 62,000 hectares of the Sierra foothills.

Mass evacuations since the fire erupted on November 8 have removed most people from harm’s way of any debris flow, according to National Weather Service hydrologist Cindy Matthews.

She also said the volcanic soil and relatively shallow slopes in the fire zone mean the ground is unlikely to become saturated enough for hillsides to give way to landslides.

Authorities in Southern California, however, warned residents in areas burned by wildfires in the foothills and mountains northwest of Los Angeles of mud-flow hazards from rain this week. One of those blazes, the Woolsey Fire, killed three people.

Evacuees also face increasingly chilly weather.

Authorities in Butte County have been gradually allowing residents evacuated during the fire back to see what is left of their homes.

The remains of two more victims were found in Paradise on Tuesday, raising the death toll to 81. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office has tentatively identified 56 of the victims.

A missing-persons list compiled by the sheriff’s office grew again to 870 names on Tuesday night after detectives got through a backlog of voicemail messages, the office said.

Buffer lines have been carved around 80 per cent of the fire’s perimeter and full containment is expected by the end of the month.

Smoke from the fires has drifted across the country to the East Coast, where it left a brownish-orange haze that was credited for unusually vibrant sunsets on Monday.

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Labor ahead in polls before Vic election

Daniel Andrews and Matthew Guy have clashed over the North Richmond supervised injecting centre.On the same day Labor announced plans to borrow $25.6 billion and double the state’s net debt to pay for some of its big-ticket election promises, polling indicates the party will retain power in Victoria.
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Daniel Andrews’ first-term government will be returned on Saturday, according to a uComms/ReachTEL poll showing Labor has a 54 to 46 per cent two-party preferred lead over the Liberal-Nationals coalition, based on a survey of 1239 voters and published by The Age.

Labor is also ahead in a second poll published by News Corp and conducted by YouGov Galaxy, with a 53-47 two-party preferred outcome.

The results follow news on Thursday from Treasurer Tim Pallas that the North East Link road, airport rail and removal of 25 rail level crossings will require the doubling of net debt to 12 per cent of gross state product.

Both he and opposition counterpart, Liberal Michael O’Brien, revealed their policy costings two days out from the state election.

The Liberal-Nationals funding model includes leasing Melbourne’s sewage system to pay for their promises and keep debt down.

Labor’s 10-year loan would only be spent on the three roads and rail program, Mr Pallas said.

“Intergenerational contributions to what are intergenerational pieces of infrastructure is highly important,” he told reporters.

“They won’t get built unless we are prepared to play the long game.”

Labor is confident the loan will not threaten the state’s AAA credit rating.

But the Liberal-Nationals believe more debt could hurt Victoria’s credit and there is no reason for multiple generations to pay.

“If you blow the budget on debt, what that means is not only are you paying for that, but your kids and your grandkids will be paying the bill because other political parties can’t fund their promises,” Mr O’Brien told reporters.

A Liberal-Nationals government would spend $17.6 billion over four years delivering its election promises and lease the sewage system for 50 years for at least $5 billion.

The funds would be used on high-speed regional rail, construction of the East West Link and North East Link roads, extension of the metro rail lines to Clyde and Baxter and upgrades for hospitals and police stations.

On the penultimate day of campaigning, both leaders boarded their branded buses to make more promises after facing-off during a morning debate.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy went to Ballarat to match Labor funding for expanding the local hospital and to declare he would retrain police cell custody officers to become protective services officers so they can take on higher duties and take pressure off the force.

Premier Daniel Andrews went to Greensborough promising to to kick-start work on Melbourne’s $15.8 billion North East Link toll road on day-one back in office.

The pair debated in ABC Melbourne’s studio for half-an-hour, clashing over the North Richmond supervised injecting centre, infrastructure plans, TAFE funding, youth crime, and law and order.

Mr Guy has vowed to shut down the medically-supervised facility as a priority if he wins government.

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May to return to Brussels to seal deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May will return to Brussels on Saturday to hammer out an outline of Britain’s future ties with the European Union after failing to bridge the gaps with the head of the bloc’s executive.
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May met European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker for about an hour and a half to try to win commitments aimed at helping her appease rebels at home opposed to her draft Brexit treaty.

“There were some remaining issues which we have discussed,” May said afterwards.

“I will be returning on Saturday for further meetings, including again with President Juncker to discuss how we can ensure that we can conclude this process.”

With just over four months before Britain’s departure, May is trying to finalise an outline of future relations before a summit of EU leaders on Sunday due to endorse the Brexit accord.

Raising the stakes, EU diplomats said they had been told that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was not willing to come on Sunday for any more talks, meaning a text must be ready beforehand.

Spain’s prime minister, meanwhile, insisted he would vote against the draft deal unless he wins assurances over the disputed peninsula of Gibraltar.

May said negotiators from both sides would continue working on the text.

“I believe we have been able to give sufficient direction for them to be able to resolve those remaining issues,” she said.

A spokesman for the European Commission said “very good progress” was made at May’s meeting with Juncker on Wednesday.

Diplomats in Brussels said EU states’ concerns over fishing rights and future trade ties had largely been addressed in the political declaration on the EU-UK future ties that would form a package with the legally-binding divorce deal, meaning Spain’s concerns were the final issue to be settled.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has demanded assurances that the future of the disputed British territory of Gibraltar would be settled through direct talks with Madrid.

The British and European parliaments must ratify the tentative deal to end more than 40 years of partnership before Brexit day on March 29, 2019, or Britain would be set to crash out of the EU with no treaty.

The publication last week of a draft exit treaty sparked the biggest crisis of May’s premiership, with two cabinet ministers quitting and dozens of Conservative members of parliament calling on her to step down. They accuse May of making too many concessions to the EU, while others oppose Brexit altogether.

May hopes the blueprint on future relations — a political document of about 20 pages meant to be agreed side-by-side with the legally binding 600-page exit treaty — will help win back enough support at home for her approach to pass in parliament.

Despite the political turmoil around her, May has shown no sign in public of any doubt that she can bring home a deal.

The EU is trying to discourage Britain from any renegotiation of the draft treaty, while also seeking to assuage concerns expressed by some of the remaining 27 member states.

While unanimity is not legally required to endorse the deal now, the bloc seeks a unified stance.

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Blues make Walsh No.1, pull off huge trade

The top 10 pick in the AFT national draft suit up in their new teams’ colours. Photo: AAPCarlton claimed Geelong Falcons star Sam Walsh with the No.1 pick at the AFL draft, but it was the Blues’ bombshell trade with Adelaide that stole the show.
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With live trading in effect for the first time, Carlton shipped next year’s first-round pick to the Crows, who gave up pick No.19 on Thursday night and their own first-round pick next year.

Blues list boss Stephen Silvagni pulled the trigger on the risky trade to take Sandringham Dragons midfielder Liam Stocker.

If Carlton struggle again next year and Adelaide bounce back into the finals, the deal will be a steal for the Crows.

The SA club could conceivably win the flag and have the No.1 pick at the 2019 draft if the Blues take the wooden spoon again.

“That’s all speculation – what happens if we finish on top of the Crows? It is what it is,” Silvagni told reporters at Marvel Stadium.

“The season will take care of itself and what we do know is we’re really happy to bring a good player through the door.

“… This is going to happen more and more – if you travel to the United States, this happens a lot.

“I’m comfortable, because I know I’ve got a good player.”

All the talk about Adelaide’s draft intentions had them trading up to try to snare one of South n duo Jack Lukosius or Izak Rankine, who went to Gold Coast second and third respectively.

But after taking Tasmanian midfielder Chayce Jones (No.9) and Geelong firebrand Ned McHenry (16), Crows list boss Justin Reid sent the 19th overall selection packing.

“We’re really rapt with the two players we’ve got in Chayce and Ned and an opportunity presented itself,” Reid said.

“There’s always a bit of risk but with that also comes reward.

“… I guess you can’t (judge it) until you get to 12 months time and we know what positions we sit in in the draft.

“It’s a calculated decision and there’s some risk with that but hopefully some reward as well.

“Time will tell.”

In all, 22 players were taken in the AFL’s new draft format, with the remaining rounds of the national draft and the rookie draft to be held on Friday.

Sandringham Dragons key forward Max King had long been linked with St Kilda and the lifelong Saints fan got his wish, joining the club at pick No.4.

Another SA lad rounded out the top five, Connor Rozee staying in his home state after Port Adelaide claimed the versatile utility.

Gold Coast used pick No.6 to claim King’s twin brother Ben who, like his brother, cuts an imposing figure at 202cm and is capable of filling a key post forward or back.

Premiers West Coast, Hawthorn, Melbourne and Essendon were interested onlookers on Thursday night as they didn’t have first-round selections, although the Eagles did a pair of trade with the Swans for late picks in this draft and next year’s.

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