Liberal Party releases attack ad reply to Labor’s climate policy

The Liberal Party has launched a new advertisement attacking Bill Shorten’s climate change policy just hours after it was launched.

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The ad, uploaded to the Liberal Party’s official YouTube account on Wednesday afternoon, opens with a soundbite from Mr Shorten’s policy announcement earlier today.

“There will be no carbon tax under Labor,” Mr Shorten says.

It then cuts to the now-infamous clip of Julia Gillard saying there would be “no carbon tax under a government I lead”, calling Bill Shorten a “carbon copy” of the former Labor leader.

“Australian families will pay the price,” the final text on the screen reads.

Mr Shorten said on Wednesday an ALP government would commit to a 45 per cent emissions reduction target (based on 2005 levels) by 2030, compared with the government’s target of 26-28 per cent.

He pledged a Labor government would ensure 50 per cent of Australia’s electricity came from renewable energy sources by 2030, and that ‘smart meters’ would be rolled out to manage home power use.

Mr Shorten said a carbon tax was not part of the policy. 

The proposed mechanism is an emissions trading scheme (ETS) for electricity generators, and a separate ETS for businesses in other industries who emit more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon pollution per year.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the policy was tantamount to a carbon tax.

“What Labor is proposing to do is another – effectively another tax,” he said. 

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said on Twitter the policy was “Julia Gillard’s carbon tax on steroids” and would result in “even higher electricity prices for Australian families”. 

Bill Shorten’s #CarbonTax will be Julia Gillard’s #CarbonTax on steroids… with even higher electricity prices for Australian families

— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) April 26, 2016

The release of the video could signal the beginning of election campaign attack ads. 

“There will be no carbon tax under Labor – Season Two” is one of four advertisements uploaded to the official Liberal Party of Australia YouTube account in the past week. The Australian Labor Party account most recently uploaded a video one month ago. 

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Vic teen searched Tony Abbott’s plans

ASIO had fears a radicalised Melbourne teen was considering targeting Tony Abbott, an AFL game and a military base before he was shot dead in 2014 after stabbing two police.

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Numan Haider, 18, told an associate he would “do it soon”, a senior ASIO officer told an inquest into the young man’s death, though she conceded Australia’s domestic spy agency did not know what “it” was.

ASIO had no information of a specific threat to the then prime minister, but it was concerned Haider may commit a politically motivated attack, said the officer giving evidence on Wednesday under the pseudonym Natalie Mayfair.

In the weeks before he was killed, Haider conducted internet searches for “firecrackers wrapped with metal sheet”, “Tony Abbott next visit to Victoria” and “Holsworthy military base”.

He also googled “AFL football”, which Ms Mayfair said was an unusual search for him.

Haider was shot in the head outside the Endeavour Hills police station after he stabbed a Victoria Police officer and an Australian Federal Police officer attached to the Joint Counter Terror Team on September 23, 2014.

One officer, known for legal reasons as Officer B, suffered shoulder and chest wounds and facial lacerations.

He has told the inquest he thought Haider was going to cut his head off.

The JCTT officers were attempting to interview Haider to gather intelligence and disrupt his plans.

An ASIO caseworker assigned to Haider, who gave evidence under the pseudonym Julie Carrington, said he came to the intelligence agency’s attention in May 2014.

ASIO monitored him through phone intercepts after noticing a high volume of contact with a particular phone number.

He had visited the Al-Furqan mosque where extreme forms of Islam were sometimes discussed, the inquest heard.

“ISIL strongly appealed to Numan,” Ms Carrington told the inquest.

“He wanted to travel to Syria to fight.”

She and another ASIO officer went to Haider’s home on July 31 to interview him.

“He denied supporting ISIL but said one of his friends did,” Ms Carrington said.

His behaviour began to escalate in July and August of that year.

Ms Mayfair said ASIO met with police three times in the week before Haider’s death to share intelligence and find out what police could do about the teen.

“I recall stating Numan’s recent activities and suggested he was on a trajectory towards more extreme behaviour,” she said.

She would not allow ASIO officers to interview Haider again because she believed he had obtained at least one knife and had sought to obtain several weapons including a Taser.

“I had safety concerns for my officers,” Ms Mayfair told the inquest.

“Police are better trained to handle approaching people carrying weapons.”

The inquest continues before coroner John Olle.

PNG Manus detainees to seek compensation: lawyer

A lawyer for the more than 800 people currently being held in immigration detention on Manus Island say they will seek compensation from the Australian government.

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It comes after the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled Australia’s detaining of asylum seekers on the island is illegal.

Housing asylum seekers on Manus Island could prove costly for the Australian government, with a lawyer for the 850 men in detention there announcing they will file for compensation.

It follows the ruling by Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court that Australia’s practice of sending asylum seekers to a detention centre on PNG’s Manus Island is illegal.

A five-man bench of the court declared it breaches the nation’s constitution, by depriving the detainees of their “personal liberty” or freedom.

Lawyer for the detainees, Ben Lomai, says some of the men could be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Under the arrangement (the) Australian government is obligated to pay for the cost, and that includes the cost of maintaining the offshore processing here, the processing centre, including the wellbeing of the asylum seekers. In my view that should also include any other costs such as the legal costs – compensation claims, etc. If we get the order for compensation we will be looking at an order to enforce that against the Australian government.”

The court’s decision has met with a frosty reception from the Australian government, with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton insisting it will have little effect on Australia’s controversial border protection policies.

He says the detainees won’t be coming to Australia.

“These people are not going to settle in Australia. We are not going to allow the people smugglers to get back into business because 1,200 people drowned at sea when Labor lost control of our borders and 50,000 people arrived on 800 boats. We are not going to return to those days of dysfunction and the surrender of our sovereignty when it comes to securing our borders.”

However the Human Rights Law Centre’s Daniel Webb has told the ABC the government will have to do something.

“What the court has said, five judges of the PNG Supreme Court, have said, (is) all of these men, for the last three years, you’ve been locking them up illegally against their most fundamental of rights: fix it, release them. Maybe the gates don’t fly open tonight, maybe they’re not all removed from Manus tomorrow, but at some stage very soon something fundamental about those arrangements must change.”

The Manus centre was re-opened in 2012 by the Gillard Labor government, and in 2014 PNG agreed to amend its constitution on the issue of personal liberty, allowing it to hold people in the facility.

This has also been ruled as against the law.

Immigration spokesman for Labor, Richard Marles, has told the ABC Mr Dutton needs to have urgent talks with PNG.

“I think the critical thing now is Peter Dutton needs to be on a plane tomorrow, literally tomorrow, to speak with his counterpart in PNG firstly about how the government is seeing this decision, and how negotiations can be undertaken to see these facilities operate within the context of this decision.”

What will happen now to the detainees is unclear.

Some experts have speculated that the Australian government might now attempt to get around the ruling, by turning Manus into an open facility like the centre on Nauru.

Lawyer Loani Henao, acting for former PNG opposition leader Belden Namah who lodged the case, says only time will tell.

“As to whether the asylum seekers are going to be transferred back to Australia, or back to their home countries or back to Nauru or anywhere else, that’s really a matter for both the governments of Australia and PNG. One thing is for (certain). They had better begin to demonstrate that they are taking steps to give full effect to the orders of the Supreme Court.”

 

 

Petracca to make his AFL debut at last

Before coach Paul Roos broke the news about Christian Petracca’s long-awaited AFL debut, he had fun making the youngster wait a little bit longer.

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The No.2 pick in the 2014 draft will play this Saturday against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.

Petracca would have played senior football last year, but a knee reconstruction wrecked his season.

Then the 20-year-old angered Roos for breaking his foot over the Christmas break when he tried a backyard basketball dunk.

Their conversation on Wednesday went much better.

A video on the club website shows Petracca in Roos’ office, discussing his playing form after three games in the VFL.

“Obviously the way you’ve been playing is the way we want you to play and the team is in good form,” Roos said.

“So it’s hard to find a spot for you at the moment … but we’ve found one for you.”

After shaking hands, Petracca slumped back in his seat with relief.

“You’ve worked your backside off – a little hiccup over Christmas, slam-dunking the ball – mate, you’ve worked your way in,” Roos added.

Petracca later admitted the wait had tested him.

“I never thought the day would come to be honest,” he said.

Before the news broke, teammate Jack Viney had said it was right that Petracca was being made to wait for his debut.

“(Christian) is a very excitable character and someone that’s extremely eager to debut,” he said.

“The club’s done a terrific job of just curbing his expectations.

“As much as I want him in the team, it’s hard to take someone out.”

Viney also said on Wednesday that he could not separate the side’s new hard edge from their winning record.

The Demons have won their last two games for a 3-2 start.

“The guys are playing on the edge,” he said.

“There’s times when we might go a bit too far. Like on the weekend, with Tommy Bugg coming out and apologising for some of the things we did.

“I’m really enjoying how we’re playing our football at the moment.

“We’re playing on the edge. We’re playing competitively. We’re standing up for our mates. That’s a team I want to be involved in.”

Federal ALP promises $115m for NT schools

Northern Territory schools will get an extra $115 million over two years, under a Labor federal government, the shadow education minister says.

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Kate Ellis was in Darwin on Wednesday to announce the pledge for 2018 and 2019, as part of a nationwide education policy promise of $37 billion over the next decade.

“This is the only state or territory in the entire country where funding for government schools is going backwards,” she told reporters.

The federal government’s budget papers show an extra $100 million dedicated to NT schooling while the NT’s papers indicate there is $40 million less being spent on education, she said, at a total cut of $140 million.

“This is absolutely shameful for the Territory government but it’s also absolutely shameful because the Turnbull government have turned a blind eye,” she said.

The NT has some of the poorest educational outcomes in Australia, with a large proportion of remote and regional students, and indigenous students who have often fallen years behind before they even start school.

Under Labor’s funding model, money from Canberra would be paid on the condition that the NT stops its cuts and makes its own co-contributions.

“We know early intervention programs, increased literacy and numeracy support improve educational outcomes … and they require resources,” Ms Ellis said.

NT Treasurer David Tollner said that although the government reduced spending, the NT has the highest student-to-teacher ratio in Australia and outcomes are improving, with a record number of indigenous students finishing year 12.

“We are getting better results not because we’re spending more money, but because we’re focusing on things that deliver better outcomes,” Mr Tollner said.

“The Territory government can stand there and say that the thing that improves our schools is ripping $140 million out of it if they like, but I don’t think local families are going to buy that,” Ms Ellis said.

When asked how Labor proposed to pay for the schools funding given the budget crisis, she said it has already announced more than $100 billion in proposed savings measures, such as increasing the tobacco excise, making changes to superannuation co-contributions and closing multinational corporation tax loopholes.

“We’re confident this is fully funded and fully costed,” she said.

Painful adjustments at Murray Goulburn

High-profile managing director Gary Helou has exited Australia’s biggest dairy producer, Murray Goulburn, and farmers face a painful year after severe downgrades to the co-operative’s profit forecasts and milk prices.

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Murray Goulburn emerged from a trading halt on Wednesday to cut its full-year profit guidance to between $39 million and $42 million – well below its February forecast of $63 million and less than half its May, 2015 prospectus forecast of $89 million.

The Victoria-based co-op also reduced what it will pay its suppliers for the rest of 2016, from $5.60 to $5.47 per kilogram of milk solids – short of the prospectus forecast of $6.05 for 2015/16.

The drastic changes follow Murray Goulburn’s board forensically examining the financial performance after trading results fell short of forecasts.

“It did become clear that we were facing a significant revenue shortfall and the farmgate milk price guidance could not be achieved,” chairman Philip Tracy said.

“The board was fairly disappointed at the quantum of the miss.”

Murray Goulburn said the stronger Australian dollar and poor sales of adult milk powder in China are to blame.

However Mr Helou’s departure comes after he and the board agreed the company “will be best served under fresh leadership”.

Mr Tracy said history would judge Mr Helou “as a visionary leader” who had helped Murray Goulburn become a globally recognised food business.

In a statement, Mr Helou said that during his time at Murray Goulburn, the group had transformed its capabilities and delivered premium milk prices for dairy farmers.

“While maintaining this price has proven difficult in current market conditions, I firmly believe MG has the foundations in place to support a strong and successful business in the years ahead,” Mr Helou said.

Chief financial officer Brad Hingle also announced he will resign.

Murray Goulburn will now borrow between $95 million and $165 million to fund a special support package that will top up suppliers’ farm gate price of between $4.75 and $5.00, with the subsidy to be recovered over three years.

Murray Goulburn’s listed entity, MG Unit Trust, was punished, plunging 90 cents, or 42 per cent on Wednesday to $1.24.

Murray Goulburn acknowledged dairy farmers will be hurt by the price cut, especially given very dry conditions in many areas.

Mr Helou will stay on briefly to help interim CEO David Mallinson, currently executive general manager of business operations.

Growth in sales of adult milk powder in China had been extremely strong in the first half of 2016, and management significantly lifted second half sales forecasts and production.

But growth slowed, and Murray Goulburn was left holding excess stock.

Morgans senior analyst Belinda Moore said the cut to the farmgate milk price would result in some dairy farmers struggling to make a profit.

The move has industry implications as Murray Goulburn generally set the farmgate milk price that other dairy processors follow, she said.

“In the meantime, there’s some management uncertainty. The management team needs to be rebuilt from this, and it’ll take time for confidence to rebuild,” Ms Moore said.

Aquino vow over Phil beheading group

Philippine President Benigno Aquino, reacting publicly for the first time to the beheading of a Canadian hostage by Islamic Abu Sayyaf militants, has vowed to devote all his energy to eliminating the group before he steps down in two months.

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John Ridsdel, 68, a former mining executive, was executed on Monday by Abu Sayyaf who captured him and three others in 2015 while they were on holiday on a Philippine island.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the execution as “cold-blooded murder”.

Security is precarious in the southern Philippines, despite a 2014 peace pact between the government and the largest Muslim rebel group that ended 45 years of conflict.

“So, to the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group), and whoever may aid or abet them, you have chosen only the language of force, and we will speak to you only in that language,” Aquino said in a statement.

“Casualties are to be expected. But what has to be of utmost importance is neutralising the criminal activities of the ASG.”

The Philippine army said a severed head had been found on a remote island on Monday, five hours after the expiry of a ransom deadline set by the militants, who had threatened to execute one of four captives. Police confirmed the head to be that of Ridsdel.

On Wednesday, army spokesman Major Filemon Tan said a headless body was found in a dried creek, near jungle where Ridsdel was believed to have been beheaded.

“We are still verifying if the body is that of John Ridsdel,” Tan told reporters.

Abu Sayyaf is a small but brutal militant group known for beheading, kidnapping, bombing and extortion in the south of the mainly Catholic country.

Ridsdel and three others, including a Norwegian and another Canadian, were abducted seven months ago in the southern Philippines and appealed in a March video for their families and governments to secure their release.

Other foreigners held by Abu Sayyaf include one from the Netherlands, one from Japan, four Malaysians and 14 Indonesians.

Canada and Britain will urge other nations not to pay ransoms to free kidnap victims, Trudeau said on Tuesday.

Pathologists ramp up campaign against cuts

Pathologists insist a new report backs their claim that patients will be charged a co-payment for tests like pap smears if the federal government pushes ahead with planned funding cuts.

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The Ernst & Young report, commissioned by Pathology Australia, shows the sector saved the federal government $2.4 billion in 2014/15.

It says the industry delivered $2 billion in savings through productivity improvements and saved almost half a billion by providing free tests under “coning” arrangements, which mean pathology providers are reimbursed by Medicare for the three most expensive tests requested by a GP at one time.

If a GP requests more than three, providers must provide the remainder free of charge.

The report says these free tests have grown steadily as a proportion of total pathology services from $50 million in 1999/00 to more than $450 million in 2014/15, adversely impacting on industry viability.

It says while pathology expenditure has grown an average 5.8 per cent each year since 1999, pathology’s share of Medicare payments has fallen from 16 per cent to 12.5 per cent.

“When the costs of providing pathology services in Australia are compared internationally, Australia is a leader in delivering value for money, while maintaining quality of service,” the report says.

It comes after a Grattan Institute report handed to Health Minister Sussan Ley in February slammed the pathology industry, insisting proposed funding cuts outlined in the government’s mid-year budget update did not go far enough.

The government wants to scrap bulk-billing incentive payments for pathology services (worth between $1.40 and $3.40) which, along with changes to bulk-billing incentives for diagnostic imaging, would save $650 million over four years.

Pathologists claim patients will face co-payments of $30 for tests like pap smears if it goes ahead.

But the Institute’s Stephen Duckett says the government pays too much for pathology and could save $340 million each year “from narrowing the margins of profitable corporations, not from cutting services to the ill and vulnerable”.

While the number of tests being conducted in Australia increases, the rebate paid for those tests remains fixed.

Greater volumes are amounting to greater profits for the two publicly-listed companies that dominate the sector, but taxpayers are failing to reap any of those benefits, Dr Duckett says.

“We pay as if testing was still done by thousands of small providers manually processing tests, and not by two industry giants with automated services,” he said.

Pathology Australia insists the Grattan report failed to account for the impact of coning.

“This report shows that the pathology industry has been providing an efficient and high quality service under increasing pressure for a number of years,” Pathology Australia president Nick Musgrave said.

“Every year pathology does more for less and scrapping the bulk billing incentive will force providers to close services in some areas and patients will be asked to pay a co-payment.”

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Police defend deradicalisation strategies

State and federal police have defended their deradicalisation strategies, saying they’re doing everything they can to prevent young people committing terrorist acts.

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“It’s important to recognise that we do have a full suite of strategies that we are looking at across the full spectrum of radicalisation to try to diminish the threat,” AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner Brian McDonald said.

But he admitted that none of the AFP’s policies have a “100 per cent success rate”.

“We don’t pretend that’s the case,” Mr McDonald told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

“But what is really important to us is that we apply those on a case by case basis dependent upon what we think will work best.”

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn meanwhile said it was concerning that people are becoming increasingly radicalised at a young age.

“But we have to persevere (and) we have to try a whole range of approaches to either prevent the radicalisation from happening in the first place, or if they do become radicalised to the point of violent extremism, that we try to deter them from that path,” Ms Burn said.

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She said NSW Police had a number of approaches in place, including prevention and youth-focused diversion programs.

The comments come after four men – aged 18, 20, 22 and 23 – were charged with plotting the murder of NSW Police accountant Curtis Cheng on Wednesday.

A 16-year-old boy who was reportedly enrolled with a NSW government-funded de-radicalisation program was arrested in Sydney on Sunday over an alleged Anzac Day terror plot.

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Broken ears and gold medal intentions

Russian-born wrestler Ivan Popov moved to Australia in 2003 with the dream of representing his adopted country at the Olympics.

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In four months’ time that dream will come true.

The Commonwealth Games Gold medallist is back in top form, and setting his sights on winning Australia’s first Olympic wrestling gold medal.

Six years ago Ivan Popov made Australian sporting history and in August he’s hoping to do it again.

He broke a 30 year gold medal drought for Australia at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games in Greco-Roman wrestling.

His name is memorialised in the history books, but he says some still had trouble remembering his face.

“Some of the people, some of the guys, recognise you but some of them are thinking I’m a basketball player, or a footy player, but definitely not a wrestler.”

The dream of wrestling gold started between two brothers in Siberia, Russia.

Ivan and his younger brother, Vladimir, longed to make a life in wrestling and to wear the sport’s ultimate badge of honour:

“The first wish we had was (to get) broken ears. It’s like a business card for a wrestler! So now I have broken ears it’s perfect (that) I’m going to the Olympics.”

Wrestling is a family legacy.

His father, Vladimir Popov Senior, won an Olympic bronze medal for Russia in 1988, as well as several other European and world titles.

Vladimir Junior, also a national title-holder, missed out on qualifying for Rio after injuring his neck – but he says Ivan’s victory is his victory.

“It doesn’t matter who’s going to go, myself or Ivan, it’s like we’re one person – the whole family is one person. So doesn’t matter who is going to go.”

One person who won’t be watching is Ivan’s wife, Olga.

Not until he won his Olympic qualification bout in Algiers had she seen her husband compete.

“What they doing, it’s sort of scary and all the time he’s getting hurt and I’m nervous so much.”

Popov missed selection for the London Games in 2012 and seized the opportunity to take a break from the sport and marry the love of his life.

Now with training back in full gear and Olympic preparations underway, Mrs Popov is back to feeding a heavyweight wrestler.

“It’s like we have a family, not of two people but like 10 people, so it’s big, big giant pots and everything so I try to do my best.”

Popov earned his ticket to Rio winning successive Australian national wrestling titles in 2015 and 2016.

His current form is reigniting hopes that the Siberian-born athlete will be Australia’s first Greco-Roman wrestler to bring home the silverware, and continue the family tradition.

Brother Vladimir says while it will be Ivan’s fight, he won’t be alone.

“I might even cry, in a good way, but I’ll be with him, even though I won’t be on the mat with him but he’s going to feel it and the whole family is going to be there, it’s all about the family I reckon.”