Hundreds ‘remember those lost’ at Port Arthur 20th anniversary service

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was among those who laid a wreath near a cafe where the shooting unfolded 20 years ago.

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Thirty-five people were killed and 23 wounded by a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle on April 28, 1996.

On Thursday, some 500 people gathered at the Port Arthur Historic Site for the official memorial service.

Mr Turnbull reflected on the shock experienced by Australians, especially visitors to Port Arthur, 20 years ago.

“Some came to work, some came to relax and learn. It was to be another calm day amid the sandstone ruins,” he said of those at the historic site that day.

“And then the horror.

“Despite the years, despite the healing, the sense of loss weighs heavy. We will never be the same.”

Mr Turnbull acknowledged his coalition predecessor John Howard who he said “acted decisively” to tighten gun laws.

“(He) set a benchmark in our resolve,” Mr Turnbull said.

He said his government would continue to crack down on gun crime and illegal gun ownership.

Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority chairwoman Sharon Sullivan explained that while there are people who opposed the idea of holding an event for the 20th anniversary, it was important for many people.

“There are some people affected by the tragedy who have come back to Port Arthur for the first time in 20 years,” Professor Sullivan said.

“That is incredibly gratifying for us.

“We also understand there are some people who cannot bear to return and perhaps never will.”

Port Arthur’s history as a convict settlement in the 1800s had a new layer of disbelief, sadness, fear and trauma added in 1996, Tasmanian Governor Kate Warner said.

“The gunman seemed to have no comprehensible explanation for his actions,” she said, before acknowledging the subsequent gun reforms.

The events of 20 years ago took a punishing toll on the local community, Prof Warner added.

“For many, the pain and anguish will never end.”

Organisers of a commemorative service marking 20 years since the Port Arthur massacre worked to shield survivors, family and friends from a media throng.

The former convict settlement is being divided into distinct areas where attendees can get moments of quiet reflection during official proceedings which will be attended by guests expected to include Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority boss Stephen Large says the 10th anniversary in 2006 was to have been the last marked by a special event but plans changed.

“Last June, we were approached by somebody that lost his wife in the massacre and said he was inquiring as to what we were intending to do for the 20th anniversary,” Mr Large told ABC online on Wednesday.

“He wasn’t ready to come back for the 10th anniversary but felt ready now.”

Further investigations found strong community interest in an event to remember the sunny Sunday 35 people were killed and 23 were injured by an armed gunman.

It won’t be a typical budget: Morrison

Treasurer Scott Morrison has said his first budget won’t be a typical one.

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It will be a sober, responsible economic plan, which won’t be throwing money around but shows the government living within its means.

“We will continue to reduce the deficit and we will do that by not spending more than we save,” the treasurer says.

While that sounds fairly typical for any treasurer, there are many threads to the May 3 budget that remain unsaid.

With an early federal election potentially just weeks away, this budget more than usual has to stop the government’s slippage in opinion polls.

It has to show voters why they should return the coalition to power at a July 2 election, rather than restoring Labor to government after just one term.

It has to satisfy Morrison’s own backbench with some still smarting from Tony Abbott’s exit at the hands of Malcolm Turnbull last year – and why Morrison is delivering his first budget instead of Joe Hockey handing down his third.

Crucially, it also has to get the nod of approval from global credit rating agencies if Australia wants to retain its triple-A rating.

While agencies like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings fell from grace in the run-up to the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, they still wield enormous power.

A credit rating downgrade would have huge repercussions for government and business because it lifts the cost of borrowing money abroad.

The potential loss of even one AAA rating would be an extremely bad look during an election campaign likely to centre around economic management.

Moody’s took the unusual step just weeks out from the budget to raise concerns that potentially limited spending cuts won’t be enough to get a meaningful improvement towards a promised balanced budget by 2021 without taking measures to raise revenue.

“Government debt will likely continue to climb, a credit negative for Australia,” it said.

An analysis by Deloitte Access Economics showed the budget out to 2018/19 being $21 billion worse off than just a few months ago as the slowdown in China hits company tax receipts and subdued wage growth restrains personal income tax revenue.

That would mean a deficit of $41.7 billion in 2015/16, $4.3 billion worse than forecast in December and larger than the $37.9 billion recorded in the previous year.

It could have been worse if not for a substantial rise in the iron ore price, recently hitting a two-year high of $US70 per tonne compared with the $US39 figure used in the mid-year budget review.

For 2016/17, Deloitte and other economists are expecting a deficit of between $31.5 billion to $38.6 billion compared to the government’s $33.7 billion forecast.

The budget will contain the result of the government’s year-long review of the tax system, but Morrison has made it clear it will be aimed at lowering the overall tax burden, not increasing it.

Neither will it be the broad-brush reform as initially promised.

GST and tax concessions through negative gearing and capital gains tax will remain unchanged.

Previously promised tax cuts to counter the effects of wage inflation, or bracket creep, are expected to be limited to some modest tinkering of thresholds while there could be a plan for a staged cut in the company tax rate.

There could also be some modest changes to superannuation tax concessions.

“Every page that you see in this budget will be about growth and jobs,” Morrison says.

Voters won’t have to wait long to show whether they agree.

Supply bills to keep government running

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has unveiled a plan to keep money flowing to the government until the budget is passed after the election.

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The program for the lower house sitting next week shows three supply bills have been slated for introduction on Monday along with a fast-tracked debate.

“These bills will ensure continuity of the normal business of government in the context of a double-dissolution election,” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told AAP on Thursday.

The budget appropriation bills will be introduced when Treasurer Scott Morrison gets to his feet on Tuesday evening, but they will not be considered by parliament until after the election.

Mr Turnbull will need to secure supply before he seeks the governor-general’s approval for a double dissolution on July 2.

The deadline for that approval is midnight on May 11.

Labor has a long-standing policy of not blocking supply.

The supply bills will contain funding for about five months of 2016/17, and no new budget measures will be included.

Labor leader Bill Shorten will deliver his budget-in-reply speech on Thursday before the prime minister visits the governor-general.

In the Senate on Monday, indigenous leader Pat Dodson will be sworn in to replace retiring Labor senator Joe Bullock.

The upper house will debate a bill to set up a new northern Australia infrastructure fund while it waits for the supply bills to pass the House of Representatives.

While the lower house sits from Monday to Thursday, the Senate will sit from Monday to Wednesday, with two days of estimates hearings on Thursday and Friday.

A sitting of both houses is scheduled for the following week.

Government backflip ‘late in the piece’ as uncertainty forces community centres to let lawyers go

Community legal centres say they have already had to let lawyers go in anticipation of budget cuts now reversed by the Turnbull Government.

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Attorney-General George Brandis today announced a funding boost of $55.7 million over the next three years, overriding and going beyond a planned $35 million cut over the same period.

“It is very welcome, but it’s certainly late in the piece,” the president of the Law Council of Australia, Fiona McLeod, said.

“Some of them would already have been putting in place plans to lay people off.”

Those planned lay-offs have “already happened” in South Australia, according to the head of that state’s Council of Community Legal Centres, Catherine McMorrine.

“We’ve had staff leave and we haven’t replaced them,” Ms McMorrine told SBS News.

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Ms McMorrine also works at the Southern Community Justice Centre, which provides free legal advice to disadvantaged people in the southern regions of Adelaide.

One lawyer who left the centre earlier this year was not replaced amid budget uncertainty, she said.

At another South Australian community firm, every full-time lawyer has been moved to a part-time roster.

The managing lawyer of the Central Community Legal Service in Adelaide, David Ferraro, said the reduction in staff hours was due to two successive years of budget cuts.

“[Today’s announcement] is some good news, but we’re still a bit apprehensive,” he said.

Senator Brandis said the government was announcing the measures ahead of the May 9 Budget to give the centres time to adjust.

“We want to send a clear signal about where the Government’s priorities lie,” he said.

Watch: Brandis announces funding for CLCs

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“One of the most important features of this announcement is that this additional funding is built into the architecture of the national partnership agreement. It is not a one off terminating program.”

BUDGET

But the federal opposition criticised the government for creating an atmosphere of uncertainty in the sector.

“The uncertainty faced by the centres in recent months and years has been incredibly damaging, with many already losing experienced staff and unable to plan for the future,” Labor’s shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said.

The uncertainty is amplified for centres in South Australia, which are still waiting on their state government to decide which firms will be allocated money for the new financial year through a competitive tendering process.

A review of the South Australian sector, commissioned by the SA Government and conducted by Earnst and Young, recommended the number of ‘generalist’ community legal centres in the state be reduced to three or four, compared with the current six, in response to the federal budget cuts.

The uncertainty has also taken a toll on the hiring practices of the Redfern Legal Centre in Sydney, according to its acting CEO Jacqui Swinburne. 

“For a few positions, we haven’t been able to offer permanent positions for a couple of years now,” Ms Swinburne said.

Watch: Redfern Legal Centre on the funding challenges

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“It’s very difficult for us to plan proper services to meet the needs of our community when we don’t know what money we will or won’t have.

“You don’t want to raise expectations or even start services that aren’t going to continue a few months later.”

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Citizenship changes disappointing: NZ PM

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has taken aim at Australia’s “disappointing” citizenship changes, flagging concerns the crackdown could affect Kiwis living abroad.

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Mr English said there had been no formal contact between the Turnbull government and himself or his ministers before Australia unveiled its immigration crackdown last week.

“The officials are going through a process of understanding exactly what the decision is. It was one that appeared on pretty short notice with very rapid application so we want to make sure that all the implications are understood,” he said in New Zealand on Monday.

“But on the face of it, it’s disappointing that New Zealanders would have to wait longer.”

The changes require New Zealanders and others aspiring for Australian citizenship to be permanent residents for four years before being eligible, up from one year.

It follows the announcement of a pathway to citizenship announced by Malcolm Turnbull last year, which allowed Kiwis who arrived in Australia between February 2001 and 2016 earning more than $53,000 a year for five years to apply for permanent residence from July this year.

Mr English said New Zealand officials were working to ensure Australia’s new citizenship policy wouldn’t affect those taking up the pathway.

One of NZ Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee’s first discussions will be to plead the case for Kiwis seeking a simple pathway to Australian citizenship, Mr English said.

An exemption for Kiwis is one proposal his government may consider putting forward.

However, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed there was no such exemption for New Zealanders tied to the citizenship changes.

“The citizenship changes announced last week come into effect immediately, and will apply to all applications for citizenship received from that date onwards,” a spokesperson for the minister said.

But Mr Dutton said Australian visa arrangements for New Zealand citizens were more generous than those for citizens of any other country.

“Australia and New Zealand have a strong relationship, and will continue working together to enhance bilateral arrangements,” his spokesperson said.

“Last year Australia introduced a pathway to permanent residency for thousands of New Zealanders living in Australia.

“For the past five years, New Zealand nationals have been in the top 10 nationalities of persons who have acquired Australian citizenship.”

Vietnam refuses to lift memorial ban ahead of Anzac Day

In the humid pre-dawn light across Southeast Asia thousands will gather Tuesday at memorials marking Anzac Day.

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But Australian officials say Vietnam have refused to lift a ban on official memorials at the Long Tan Cross in Vung Tau province, extending a policy in place since August last year.

The ban took effect hours before a planned 50th anniversary commemoration last August was to proceed.

An Australian consular website notice said Vietnam had refused permission for official commemorations at the Long Tan site, including Anzac Day 2017. But “small groups” for “low key” private visits, and without media coverage would be allowed.

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At the 1966 battle of Long Tan vastly outnumbered Australian troops fought off an attack by Communist Vietcong.

Vietnamese officials were critical of Australians at last year’s Anzac Day ceremonies when up to 1000 people went to the Long Tan site.

Defence analyst Carl Thayer, at the University of NSW, said reports of Australians’ behaviour and large crowd “exceeded past understandings” with the Vietnamese who were “very finicky on breaking protocol”.

Watch: The PM’s Anzac Day message

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Elsewhere, services would take place at lawn cemeteries and Australian and New Zealand embassies throughout the region.

In Thailand, former Australian prisoners of war Harold Martin, 100 years old this year, and 94-year-old Neil MacPherson, are joining up to 1000 people in the pre-dawn service at the memorial along the World War II Death Railway site of Konyu Cutting, known as Hell Fire Pass. Both men worked on the rail line during the war.

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The brutal conditions, starvation and disease claimed the lives of more than 12,600 PoWs, including 2800 Australians, as well as 90,000 Asian labourers forced to work on the line construction between Thailand and Burma.

Mick Clarke, manager of the Australia government-funded Hell Fire Pass Memorial Museum, said visitors, especially younger generation, were shocked by the cruelty faced by the PoWs.

“They try to imagine what the PoWs went through,” Clarke told AAP.

In Singapore, memorial services are at the Kranji War Memorial lawn cemetery where thousands of Australians suffered in the notorious Changi PoW camp. Many PoWs from Changi were transported to Thailand to work on the Death Railway.

In Malaysia, the focus of services is Sabah State’s Sandakan war memorial built on the site of the PoW camp during World War II.

The ceremonies mark the remembrance of the more than 2430 Australian and British PoWs and local people who perished under the Japanese Imperial rule.

Sandakan was also the site of the notorious march at war’s end in 1945 when 1005 PoWs perished from malnutrition or were murdered.

Other services are to take place in the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos and Kuala Lumpur.

Martin Stuart-Fox, emeritus professor of history from Queensland University, said conflicts were called by politicians, but the suffering was borne by ordinary people.

“We sent people out there to fight wars wherever it is and they fought them to the best of their ability and they were our representatives in doing so and we should honour that,” Stuart-Fox told AAP.

“These occasions should be celebrations of the discipline and the courage and the honour of those who were thrown into the fight.”

France votes: What impact will Le Pen, Trump and Brexit have?

France will head to the polls not once, but twice, to decide their next president.

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And whoever wins will take over from the most unpopular president in French history – Francois Hollande.

The second European country to vote in the ‘super year of elections’, the French election doesn’t start until April 23, but has already seen plenty of drama with allegations of fraud surrounding right-wing Republican leader Francois Fillon – once the favourite to be the next President.

Also in the mix is anti-immigration and anti-Islam National Front leader Marine Le Pen, and former economic adviser to President Hollande turned independent candidate, Emmanuel Macron – who is now seen as a favourite with political analysts.

Running for the Socialist Party is Benoît Hamon, described by his opponents as a “left-wing rebel”, who beat Prime Minister Manuel Valls for the party’s nomination. He has proposed a universal basic income for all French citizens, but is unlikely to make it to the second round of voting.

Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon had been written-off by many, but is experiencing a late surge in popularity. He grabbed attention with his hologram appearance, when he appeared simultaneously at rallies in Lyon and Paris.

The economy, European Union and immigration are key issues this election.

French expats in Australia and abroad go to the polling stations

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The two-round voting system

Because the French presidential election is a two-round system, it opens up the field for a vast range of candidates. Or as a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at Monash University, Dr Ben Wellings, puts it: a “diversity of views”.

“Anyone and everyone who has enough money could put their hat in the ring in the first round,” he said.

After the first round of voting on April 23, the two candidates with the most votes will move into the second round, and the French people will vote again on May 7.

This system allows the French people to concentrate on key policy issues, according to the director of the European Union Centre at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Professor Bruce Wilson.

“I like the French system because when you get your two candidates after the first round you’ve got two weeks to have that very focused debate about what works,” he said.

“You know what you’re getting after the second round of the presidential election.”

READ MOREThe Le Pen factor

“There’s a family dynasty there – her father founded the National Front and himself made it to the second round of the presidential election in 2002,” Professor Wilson said.

“Take Pauline Hanson out of the equation [with One Nation] and I think it would go the way of the Katter party. She certainly has traction in very particular parts of the country.

“The same goes with Le Pen. It’s more to do with these issues of homogeneity.”

Professor Wilson points out that, around the world, cosmopolitan cities are more likely to reject far-right views, as opposed to voters in remote areas.

“Paris is a melting pot of people from all over Europe, from all over the world,” he said.

Marine Le Pen refuses to wear a headscarf

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President Trump and Populism

“There was certainly talk last year after Brexit and after Trump about the likelihood that seemingly there would be a wave of right-wing governments across Europe, but I don’t think that’s likely to happen at all,” Professor Wilson said.

“Nonetheless, the elections are interesting. France is the most interesting of the three this year.

While the Leave campaign for Brexit focused on immigration, Dr Wellings says it was “more like a tipping point rather than a trigger” in France.

“All the signs were there,” he said. “People will resist the scale and pace of immigration or immigration at all,” he said, pointing out that the Euro zone crisis, austerity crisis, and financial collapse of Greece have all played a part in France.

“It’s not just the white, working class man – it’s also the managerial class,” Dr Wellings said of the growing populist sentiment.

“The signs have been there for the last 10 years and they’ve been growing. Something like the referendum or Trump’s election allow those views to be expressed in ways that may surprise people.”

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned about the rise of populism when he visited Australia this month.

“Even in Australia populism is alive,” he said.

“Far from being the majority, but they are alive, they are developing, they are using propaganda, using fears, anguish, worries, things like safety, threat of terrorism, migrations, fear of losing the socio-economic model in place – all this are themes far right political parties use extensively.

“We talk a lot about it because of the presidential elections in France, but if you look at other elections other than the French ones… even in Germany, which was a bit less impacted, we can see the far-right climbing there too, Italy too. Most countries are impacted.

“We need to be careful. It is a threat for our democracies. It is a step back in history. It’s the illusion that it just needs to close borders, stop any exchanges between countries to find a solution – it’s just not true.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in Australia

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Brexit and the European Union

The day after Brexit, the top Google search in Britain was “what is the EU?”

But Professor Wilson says that problem is not limited to the UK.

“One of the problems for the EU is if you picked a bunch of people in France and Malta and asked them what the EU is they wouldn’t know,” he said. “It’s the same all over Europe.”

Dr Wellings says the EU adds another layer of frustration for many voters in France already disillusioned by politics.

“Political parties are experiencing difficulties in relating to the electorate at the national level but that’s even more difficult for the EU which is seen as more remote,” he said.

“It’s hard for people to see how they can affect change in policies they don’t like. You don’t vote out the government like you do at the national level.

“It’s usually claimed that it’s not democratic, but it’s insufficiently representative.”

Nicknamed the “Innovation Union”, the EU promotes science and industry across countries, Professor Wilson says.

“There’s a very clear embracing of what they call the knowledge economy,” he said.

Economy is key, but don’t mention immigration

“The protection of French workers, how changes to the protection of French workers are handled will be a key issue,” Professor Wilson said.

But as election day nears, Dr Wellings says Le Pen’s opponents will do their best to avoid debating immigration because that’s when the National Front leader will stand out.

“I think that people [in France] are quite aware of what’s going on in other parts of the world,” he said.

“The centre-left and even parts of the centre-right will not want to see another Brexit or another Trump – we really don’t want to see a neo-fascist like Marine Le Pen in charge of France and its nuclear weapons; it’s way worse than Brexit.”

Don’t rule out Fillon

Both Dr Wellings and Professor Wilson tip Macron as the favourite to be the next President of France.

“He’s a bit like the Justin Trudeau of France,” Dr Wellings said.

“He worked in the Socialist Hollande Government but he’s not running as a socialist; he says he’s independent.”

“He’s not identifying with these two major parties,” Professor Wilson said. “He’s got a real level of charisma, he’s able to engage.

“If you just look as his dealings with Theresa May and post-Trump, that gives some people optimism.”

But even though Fillon has been accused of using public funds to pay his wife hundreds of thousands of Euros for fake parliamentary jobs, the Republican leader is still in with a chance this election.

“I wouldn’t rule out Fillon,” Professor Wilson said. “If he gets into the second round he’s got the full support of the centre-right behind him.”

Tune in to SBS French Radio for detailed profiles of each of the candidates in the lead up to the French presidential election.

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Labor welcomes legal funding ‘backflip’

The federal government says it’s listened and accepted the need for continued funding for community and indigenous legal services.

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But Labor has labelled the decision a humiliating backdown for Attorney-General George Brandis and a win for campaigners across the country.

The government will include $39 million of funding for community legal centres and $16.7 million for indigenous legal services over three years in its May 9 budget.

The money takes funding for the services to 2020, when a national partnership agreement with the states and territories ends.

After 2020, all jurisdictions will have to negotiate a new funding deal.

The new money for community legal centres will be prioritised for services that help domestic violence victims and their children.

Senator Brandis touted Monday’s announcement as a government “investment of unparalleled magnitude”.

“This is new money (and) it represents the largest single commitment on an annualised basis by the commonwealth government to the legal assistance sector ever,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

Senator Brandis also defended the time taken to reach the decision – described as a “travesty” by Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath – as part of the budget process.

“We’re actually announcing this in advance of the budget because we want to send a very clear signal about where the government’s priorities lie,” he said.

The coalition has come under sustained fire from Labor, minor parties and community groups for not guaranteeing ongoing funding to the legal services, with previous commitments set to end on July 1.

Acting shadow attorney-general Katy Gallagher welcomed the news but said it was a humiliating backflip for Senator Brandis.

“Just eight weeks out from these cuts taking effect, for those who have campaigned against the cuts, the victory is theirs today,” she told reporters in Canberra.

But legal centres has already lost experienced staff because of the uncertainty and would take time to rebuild, she said.

The Law Council of Australia said it was a huge relief.

“The scheduled budget cuts would have significantly deepened the funding crisis affecting the legal assistance sector, with enormous downstream costs to taxpayers,” president Fiona McLeod said in a statement.

“It heads off an impending disaster, as many community legal centres, particularly in regional areas, were set to close.”

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie in March accused the government of “sledging welfare recipients with a hammer” and said everyone should have the right to legal representation whether they had money or not.

Fortescue to further trim its debt

Fortescue Metals is taking advantage of firmer iron ore prices to further trim its massive debt pile.

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The world’s fourth biggest iron ore exporter will buy back corporate bonds worth $US577 million ($A745 million) on June 1, a move it says will also deliver interest savings of $US48 million a year.

“This debt repayment delivers on our sustained commitment to reduce all-in costs, further generating strong cash flows and continuing to reduce our debt,” chief executive Nev Power said.

Fortescue has raced to cut costs this financial year as it grapples with the prolonged mining downturn, and has also focused on trimming its debt, which stood at $US5.9 billion at the end of March.

Earlier in April, the miner said it had stripped cash costs by 43 per cent from a year ago to $US14.79 per wet metric tonne of iron ore.

A rebound in iron ore prices in recent months has also given Fortescue some breathing space.

Spot prices touched a decade-low of $US38 a tonne late in 2015, but have recovered to nearly $US63 a tonne on Wednesday, though that is still down two-thirds from their peak in 2011.

The slump in prices forced Moody’s to cut Fortescue’s credit rating to two notches below investment grade earlier this year.

With the latest bond buyback, the company has now repurchased debt worth $US1.7 billion in the last 12 months. It last bought back corporate bonds worth $US750 million during the December quarter.

Fortescue shares initially surged on the news, but lost ground in afternoon trade, along with the wider market, to drop nine cents, or 2.9 per cent, to $3.06. They have gained nearly 70 per cent so far in 2016.

PM urged to protect migrant women fleeing violence

A coalition of 135 groups has written an open letter to the prime minister, calling for a guarantee that migrant women on temporary visas are able to access crisis payments when fleeing domestic violence.

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Among the signatories are the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, the Refugee Council of Australia and the Immigrant Woman’s Health Service.

The findings of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence handed down last month recommended that access for crisis payments be made available to domestic violence survivors, regardless of their visa status.

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FECCA chair Joe Caputo said he would like to see that recommendation being implemented but unfortunately service providers report it is not.

“Safety from domestic violence is a fundamental human right and must not be subject to a person’s visa status,” he told SBS. “So we feel that by these women being left behind, they are often forced to go back to violent domestic relationships or an abusive partner because they haven’t got access to services.”

The Salvation Army’s Freedom Partnership to End Modern Slavery provides shelter to victims of trafficking and slavery, a number of whom are migrant women on temporary visas.

Project co-ordinator Laura Vidal said income support becomes the critical issue for migrant women on temporary visas fleeing domestic violence.

“Many of the women who are leaving servitude situations are experiencing a great deal of anxiety around not being able to access the support that they need and often that comes with significant lag times with a change in their situation when they then don’t have access to Centrelink payments.”

She said it is left up to charities to fill the breach and provide support; and they are struggling to handle the load.

“So often those are with us are being supported financially by the Salvation Army until they are in a position when they can have access to a more long-term and appropriate support mechanism,” she said.

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“And our program is entirely funded by the community, so as you can imagine that financial support does have its limits.”

Migrant women on temporary visas are particularly vulnerable when facing a situation of domestic violence, said Xanthe Emery, a senior lawyer from the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre in Sydney.

She said 40 per cent of her cases involve domestic violence; and that the centre gives advice to clients in a similar situation every day.

The language barrier, lack of family support in Australia and lack of knowledge about Australia’s legal system compound the problem.

“I have definitely had clients who were experiencing violence and didn’t know they could call the police, or that was something the police could help them with. They are told by their partners that if they report the abuse, their visa will be cancelled. And that threat is a very genuine fear for them, that they will be deported out of the country very quickly,” Ms Emery said.

FECCA chair Joe Caputo said it is vital that the federal government’s $100 million strategy to tackle domestic violence also include migrant women.

“We don’t want to have any one group at risk in this area. Given the urgencies, we have seen the federal government act on it. We support that strategy. The government ought to make sure that no-one is left behind on this.”

NSW premier cold on Wicked Camper reforms

NSW Premier Mike Baird rejected calls to ban offensive slogans on campervans, including the Wicked Campers fleet, from parts of northern NSW.

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Byron Bay Shire councillor Duncan Dey wants to wipe the “usually sexist” slogans off the vans or ban them from council caravan parks and is seeking the premier’s support.

“I haven’t seen the details … but people sort of getting around in campervans enjoying the coast seems a pretty normal thing to be doing,” Mr Baird told reporters on Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s something that the state government should be getting involved in.”

Mr Dey is preparing to argue for the reforms at a council meeting on Thursday, in a move supported by Ballina Shire councillor Robyn Hordern.

“Councillors will have seen the Wicked slogans over the years. We were relieved at one stage by many of the vans being taken off the road when found unroadworthy. They seem to have then returned, with the slogans even more offensive than before,” Mr Dey said in a motion lodged ahead of the meeting.

Mr Dey wants Byron Bay Council to write to Mr Baird and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk seeking support to get the vans off the road.

Signs saying: “Van drivers, your wicked slogan is not welcome in Byron Shire” could be erected at Byron Shire entry points, and the vans could be banned from council caravan parks, Mr Dey suggests.

Ms Hordern also lodged a motion to write to state and federal ministers pledging support for any action or legislative changes to ban the “inappropriate messages”.

“… the public display of these messages is often insulting and/or degrading to many members of our community,” Ms Hordern said motion lodged ahead of a council meeting on Thursday.

Annual Australian music festival Splendour in the Grass, held near Byron Bay, has also taken a stand against the campervans.

“If you’re booking a campervan, please steer clear of sexist slogans! You know who you are. It’s 2016, get with the program!!,” says the Splendour in the Grass website.

Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm said councils and “wowsers” in northern NSW should leave Wicked alone.

He said Wicked was an Australian business supporting tourism and reports its vans were being vandalised were disturbing.

Wicked had already toned down some of its slogans in response to previous complaints, he said.

“That’s how free speech should work, not by legislation,” he said.

“Personally, I find authoritarians disguised as hippies or feminists far more offensive than any slogan on the back of a van, but I don’t seek to ban them.”

Wicked Campers has been contacted for comment.

Pell’s claim he was deceived ‘is wrong’

Three former Catholic education officers have denied Cardinal George Pell’s claims their office deceived him about the activities of a violent and sexually abusive priest.

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Former Catholic Education Office director Monsignor Thomas Doyle and his deputy Peter Annett told the sex abuse royal commission of their shock, disappointment and anger on hearing Dr Pell allege the office withheld information about pedophile priest Peter Searson in the 1980s.

Cardinal Pell, an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne in the ’80s, told the royal commission in March education officials were fearful of telling him the full story about Searson because they knew he would be “decisive” and not accept the status quo.

In giving his evidence from Rome where he is now the Vatican’s finance chief, Dr Pell also said he thought the education office at the time was protecting Archbishop Frank Little.

But Mgr Doyle and other witnesses categorically denied this was the case.

“I don’t agree with that evidence. I don’t agree that the Catholic Education Office intended to deceive Bishop Pell, so I thought his statement was wrong,” the Monsignor told the commission on Wednesday.

He was disappointed with the Cardinal’s claims.

“I don’t think they were true,” he said.

The now retired priest also said the office would have welcomed then Bishop Pell’s assistance in removing Searson.

The commission has heard evidence Searson threatened one little girl by holding a knife to her chest, sexually molested children in confession and threatened people with a gun.

Searson died in 2009 without being charged.

He was suspended from duty in 1997, a year after Dr Pell became Archbishop of Melbourne.

The commission has also heard that Archbishop Little ignored repeated requests to remove Searson.

Mr Annett said on Wednesday at one stage in the late ’80s the number one priority for the office was to get Searson removed from the parish.

“I would have thought our staff would be completely frank with Bishop Pell and be cheering from the rooftops if he was able to take action,” he said.

He said he had to admit to “some shock” at what Dr Pell said in Rome.

“I was disappointed and perhaps angry, but certainly very disappointed,” Mr Annett said.

Mr Annett, Mgr Doyle and former education consultant Allan Dooley said there was never any instruction to keep information from then auxiliary bishop Pell.

A fourth witness, former education official Catherine Briant who in 1989 took over as zone officer with responsibility for Doveton from Mr Dooley, said she was not briefed on problems at the Holy Family school.

She dealt with complaints he was bullying and harassing staff. She had no dealing with Bishop Pell, nor was she ever instructed to keep information from him, she said.

The hearing into widespread clerical abuse in Melbourne, which started last November, concluded on Wednesday.

No ‘Hollywood movie’ end for siege: court

Charging into the Lindt cafe to take down armed madman Man Haron Monis would not have ended like a Hollywood movie and would likely have left hostages dead, an inquest has heard.

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The police response to the December 15, 2014 siege has been the focus of the latest round of hearings at the NSW coronial inquest, with the first high-ranking officer to take command of the scene grilled for a day-and-a-half about initial actions.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Fuller took charge at 9.50am, as the 17-hour incident was beginning.

At this time, scant details were known about what was happening inside the old bank on Martin Place, with no indication the gun Monis had was real or fake and the possibility of a bomb in his backpack.

Given how little was known, the best course of action was “contain and negotiate,” Mr Fuller has told the inquiry.

Under this approach the focus was on gathering information and liaising with Monis, and police would have to be convinced there was the imminent or immediate threat of death or serious injury to have stormed the building.

Sending in armed officers would not likely have ended well and would not have been like a Hollywood movie in which Monis was shot between the eyes and all lives were saved, Mr Fuller said.

“My fear was any action, deliberate action, would certainly have caused a loss of life and I’m not talking about the perpetrator,” he said.

But, when officers stormed the cafe after Monis had killed manager Tori Johnson, Mr Fuller’s fears were fulfilled when mother-of-three Katrina Dawson died after being hit by shrapnel from police rounds.

Before Monis had shot Johnson, Mr Fuller said not enough was known to order a forceful response even after a warning shot had been fired, contradicting UK terror experts.

A report prepared for the coroner by British counter-terrorism experts stated police should have immediately entered the building after Monis first fired his shotgun, at 2.03am.

Ten minutes and 37 seconds later, Monis forced Mr Johnson to his knees and executed him with a point-blank shot to the head.

Mr Fuller disagrees with the UK report, saying community expectations in that country were different and led to different police orders and responses to armed sieges.

“Strong action by police after a warning shot would likely cause someone’s death,” he said.

Under Mr Fuller’s command, snipers moved into place and negotiators were brought in.

But he has told the inquest a plan to smash the bullet-proof glass to provide a clear shot for the snipers, was too risky to be considered.

“It gave the target time to move,” he said.

The siege reached its deadly conclusion after Monis’ execution of Mr Johnson caused police to storm the building.

Monis was gunned down, while Ms Dawson also died.

The inquest continues before NSW Coroner Michael Barnes.