Bailey under fire over corruption remarks

Queensland Energy Minister Mark Bailey is under fire for claiming his constituents aren’t concerned about his tangles with the state’s corruption watchdog.

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Mr Bailey returned to ministerial duties last week after the Crime and Corruption Commission found there were no grounds to prosecute him over his use and subsequent deletion of the private email account – [email protected]

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Mr Bailey said the investigation hadn’t been a big issue for voters in his Brisbane seat.

“Most of my constituents saw it for what it was, and that was it was a political play in the rough old game of politics,” he told reporters.

“I’ve tremendous levels of support from my local constituents who realise it was not a significant issue whatsoever.”

Liberal National Party shadow treasurer Scott Emerson hit out at the comments and said they showed Mr Bailey did not belong in parliament.

“But (Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk doesn’t have the leadership or the strength of leadership to make sure he’s not there,” he said.

“I think his comments today are disgraceful. The reality is he’s broken the ministerial code of conduct, but he just wants to dismiss it.”

The CCC spent six months investigating Mr Bailey after he deleted his Yahoo account in January, 10 days after The Australian filed a Right to Information request for emails it contained from Electrical Trades Union secretary Peter Simpson regarding a merger of union superannuation funds.

It forced Mr Bailey to reopen the account and the state archivist later found he would have required legal permission to delete 660 of the emails.

However, because the account had been recovered, it was found Mr Bailey did not breach the public records act.

Acting Premier Curtis Pitt said he was unaware of Mr Bailey’s comments but insisted the investigation into his actions was thorough.

“I’m not going to suggest that’s a trivial matter,” he said.

“It’s certainly a matter that has been widely canvassed in the public, it has been the subject of an investigation, and I think it speaks for itself.”

Ms Palaszczuk has said officials are working on a new set of guidelines around the use of communications platforms.

Murdoch, Gordon still mulling Ten move

Failed Ten Network bidders Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch may be analysing their own independent expert’s report ahead of making a decision on challenging the sale of Ten to CBS, a court has heard.

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Lawyers for Tens administrator KordaMentha have told the NSW Supreme Court that the media moguls were also awaiting KordaMentha’s independent report before deciding on any attempt to block the final transfer of Ten shares to victorious bidder CBS.

Correspondence tendered to the court shows Mr Murdoch and Mr Gordon, through their respective companies Illyria and Birketu, expressed reservations to Ten’s administators on Tuesday about their access to information on the sale process.

The pair have indicated they intend to appeal the court’s decision to allow creditors, and CBS, to vote on the CBS takeover on 16 September.

Ten’s creditors overwhelmingly backed the sale of the embattled network to CBS, Ten’slargest creditor, on September 19.

A spokesman for KordaMentha said that while the passage of the sale through the Foreign Investment Review Board and the transfer of shares to CBS was “usually routine”, the administrators sought the hearing on Wednesday to set a timetable for the share transfer in anticipation of a challenge from Mr Murdoch and Mr Gordon.

KordaMentha said it aims to make the independent report available shareholders via the ASIC website by 10 October, with the Supreme Court setting 31

October as a tentative date to hear any final shareholder opposition.

have not yet decided on when or how to intervene in the sale of Ten to CBS, a court has heard in Sydney.

Lawyers for Ten administrator KordaMentha have told the NSW Supreme Court the media moguls have indicated they are waiting for an independent expert’s report before declaring their hand on any attempt to block the final transfer to Ten shares to US broadcaster CBS.

KordaMentha said it aims to make its independent report on the CBS deal available to shareholders by October 10.

The Supreme Court has set October 31 as a tentative date to hear any final shareholder opposition.

Tigers’ Rance took step back to go forward

Sometimes less is more and that’s certainly proved to be the case for Richmond’s defensive unit this AFL season.

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Less Alex Rance that is.

The superstar defender’s decision to take a small step back and let other members of the Tigers’ back line take the lead more often in pre-season has paid huge dividends.

The league’s third-best defence conceded 1684 points this season — a whopping 471 fewer than last year.

And Richmond had scores of more than 100 points kicked against them just twice — by Adelaide in round 6 and St Kilda in round 16.

“Alex is just an extraordinary player, an absolute warrior, but underneath him, in the past, we’ve probably been a little bit skinny,” Tigers fullback David Astbury told AAP.

“So he made it his mission in the pre-season to try to put more responsibility on me and Dylan Grimes and others to allow us to really grow and develop.

“In the past he’s probably just wanted to fix everything but it’s too hard to do for any one person.

“It’s a credit to him. He probably had to take a back seat and allow me or someone else to take over (in meetings or training) and that’s allowed us to get up to speed.

“I think as a group we’re really connected and bonded together as a result.”

Astbury has thrived with the extra responsibility, along with the growing belief that he’s well and truly over the injuries that threatened his career.

The 26-year-old played every game this season — the first time he’s managed that feat since he debuted in 2010.

From the 2011 season through to 2015, he was restricted to just 24 senior appearances due to a horror run with injuries, which included two dislocated kneecaps.

“I was probably fighting a losing battle with myself at different stages … trying to do too much and trying to progress too quickly,” he said.

“It was all in the spirit of trying to get back and play senior football, but the frustration that mounted at different stages was almost overwhelming.

“But I had excellent support from the club.

“I think the key for me has been continuity of playing over a couple of years now.

“Your confidence grows the more you play and when you’re surrounded by the people that I am you just feel really supported.

“Going out there each week is more enjoyable now than it ever has been.”

High Court judgement finds same-sex marriage postal survey counts as ‘statistics’

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann did have the legal authority to set aside $122 million for the postal survey on same-sex marriage, the High Court decided in a judgement earlier this month.

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The court also rejected the argument the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was not the right agency to conduct the poll. It found the opinions on same-sex marriage did count as “statistical information”.

The court published a summary of its reasoning on Thursday, several weeks after the judgement was handed down. The somewhat unusual process was justified by the need to reach a quick decision so the ABS could begin posting survey forms.

The judge concluded Senator Cormann had the right to allocate up to $295 million under the Appropriation Act. 

One element of the challenge focused on the requirement for the spending to be “unforeseen”, and argued the government had created the need for the postal survey itself by imposing its own deadline. 

But the court found it was up to the government to decide what was “unforeseen”.

“The Court held that whether expenditure was unforeseen was a matter for the Minister’s satisfaction. Further, the need for the expenditure did not have to arise from a source external to Government,” the reasoning reads.

Another element of the challenge argued the survey was not statistical research and so was outside the remit of the ABS.

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But the court rejected that argument too.

“The Court held that the Statistics Direction was valid on the basis that the information to be collected by the Australian Statistician was ‘statistical information’, that the information was ‘in relation to’ matters prescribed in the Census and Statistics Regulation 2016.” 

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AFL urges fans to plan ahead or miss out

The Tiger Army has the AFL nervous about crowd numbers for the events around Saturday’s grand final.

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Richmond’s 9.45am training session at Punt Rd on Friday is certain to be a lockout, while officials are unsure what to expect for the post-match free concert inside the MCG.

The Tigers’ training session will be followed by the noon grand final parade from the Melbourne CBD to outside the MCG.

Punt Rd only has a capacity of 5000 and Richmond’s massive supporter base, plus their long wait for a premiership, means it will fill up quickly.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has urged Richmond and Adelaide fans to arrive early for Friday’s events.

“The capacity and the crowding issues are a priority for us – we’re working with Victorian Police, working with the clubs,” McLachlan said.

“It’s going to be a great spectacle, the parade, the final training at Punt Rd, all that sort of stuff.

“Please, to all Richmond and Adelaide supporters, understand that there are going to be a lot of people, get there early … expect it to be a big event.”

Organisers will also have their hands full for the post-game concert on Saturday night, featuring American rock band The Killers.

“This year it feels like we might need to make sure we managed the capacity,” McLachlan said.

“We can fit a lot of people in – it’s a free show, it’s not just for those who have grand final tickets.”

McLachlan said they want to have as many people as possible attend the concert.

It is open to the public, not just fans who have grand final tickets.

“Clearly if Richmond wins, there’s a chance no-one leaves and there’s 30,000 outside,” he said.

“I think we can fit everyone in … generally, we haven’t had an issue with capacity.

“This is a big band and a there are a couple of big teams playing in the grand final, so we’ll see.”

McLachlan said he wished the MCG had double its 100,000 capacity, given the massive interest in this year’s grand final.

Same-sex marriage: Man, 18, denied vote as details can’t be verified by ABS

The 18-year-old is “incredibly frustrated” after the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) told the HSC student he could not take part in the same-sex marriage postal survey because it can’t verify his details.

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Mr Cairnduff has two lesbian mothers and was eager to receive his ballot so he could vote so they could get married in front of friends and family in Australia.

The HSC student enrolled on the Australian Electorate Commission website this year on February 13, two days before his 18th birthday, to ensure he would be eligible to vote.

SBS World News can confirm Mr Cairnduff is enrolled to vote on the AEC website. He also said he voted in his local election this year.

0:00 Same-sex marriage around the world Share Same-sex marriage around the world

But Mr Cairnduff did not receive a ballot by the ABS September 25 deadline for mail-outs. 

The 18-year-old spent hours on the phone to ABS supervisors trying to determine why a ballot was not delivered to his address.

“We called up the ABS and they came back to us, after a long time speaking to a couple of supervisors, saying they couldn’t find me on the database, but they could find me on the website [AEC],” Mr Cairnduff told SBS World News.

“They said call back when we will be handing back our second round of postal votes. After that long call, I called back on the 26th, and they said to me they didn’t think I could vote because they couldn’t find me on the database.”

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After enquiring further – in an email showed to SBS World News – the ABS replied claiming he was not eligible to vote in the same-sex marriage postal survey.

“Unfortunately we have not been able to verify your details against the Commonwealth Electoral Roll so cannot process your request at this time,” it read.

Mr Cairnduff said he is frustrated he has been forced to put so much effort into fighting for his legal right to vote. He is also concerned other Australians might be discouraged if they are facing a similar situation.

“I am incredibly frustrated that I have had to put this much effort to essentially fight for my vote, in a process I frankly don’t want to be doing anyway,” Mr Cairnduff told SBS World News.

“I am frustrated, you see these people in the media and they speak about your family and what my family is and what it means… And they are going to have their right to vote, but I am not going to be able to vote on whether my mums can marry.”

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Patrick is hoping he will be able to see his mother, Annette Cairnduff, and her partner, Kylie Gwynne, marry for the second time in Australia.

The couple were married for a very brief time when same-sex marriage was legal in Canberra, before the Marriage Act was amended in 2004 to only recognise the union between a man and a woman.

Annette Cairnduff is also the co-founder of Just Equal, a human rights group inspiring Australians to respect equality for LGBTI Australians.

0:00 Hundreds of Australian same-sex couples head to NZ to marry Share Hundreds of Australian same-sex couples head to NZ to marry

‘This means the world to us’

Mr Cairnduff said this issue was of paramount importance to his family and urged Australians who may not have received a ballot to persist for their right to vote as it would be making a difference.

“If you’re not in a family like mine, it is not going to directly affect you and it may be a bit more of an effort [to request a postal vote],” Mr Cairnduff said.

“But, for family’s like mine this means the world to us to be able to marry. When I saw my parents get married in Canberra, to see them smile… and to see how happy we were that this day had finally come around, to us it’s just so important.”

Alex Greenwich Co-Chair of The Equality Campaign said they will be raising the concerns with the ABS.

“Every single survey in this postal vote counts, stories like this highlight just how important it is to return your survey,” he said in a statement to SBS World News.

“We will continue to raise these concerns with the ABS and encourage everyone to return their YES votes.”

The ABS confirmed to SBS World News they are investigating the issue and the AEC said they are unable to comment on an individual case for privacy reasons.

‘Old bloke’ Scott steps up as International team leader

Now 37, Scott is the veteran for the Internationals at Liberty National this week, as soft-spoken and polite as ever, but now a leader whose words carry weight in the team room.

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“Adam is a very quiet guy but when he speaks it’s with such conviction and passion,” team captain Nick Price told reporters on Tuesday.

Scott is almost destined to one day lead the team himself but for now, the 2013 U.S. Masters champion would just like to play on a winning side.

The Internationals tied the United States in South Africa in 2003, when Ernie Els and Tiger Woods duelled in a thrilling playoff that was called a draw in fading light.

That was a good debut experience for Scott, but six subsequent consecutive defeats have been sobering.

Perhaps a touch jaded but still optimistic, Scott hopes to feed off his younger team mates as much as they feed off him.

“It’s good to see a lot of young blood in the team and excitement levels are at an all-time high,” he said of team in which six of the 12 players are aged below 30.

“It’s been a while since that was me in South Africa, so really that’s a lot of inspiration for me coming this week, (to) feed off them a little bit, too, as much as I can give advice or whatever I’m meant to do as an old bloke.

“For them to lift me up, too, and make me feel young again is important.”

Scott’s record is hardly spectacular — 13 wins, 17 losses and five halves — due mainly to an awful return in alternate shot foursomes, but he has a winning 4-3-0 record in singles, where there is nowhere to hide.

And though non-confrontational by nature, Scott has started taking on a role he feels is important, even if it does not come naturally.

“I didn’t really know what was going on in ’03,” he said.

“But now I’ve played so much, and it seems a bit of my role, as well, the last couple of Cups has been to be a bit of a team room player for the guys and just make sure everyone is feeling comfortable.

“I’ve seen a lot at this stuff, and someone has also got to be able to speak up to these very respected captains, who might not be seeing exactly what the players are feeling sometimes, too.

“I’ve been fairly happy to fill that role the last couple of years.”

(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by John O’Brien)

Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive in historic decision

The longstanding driving ban was seen internationally as a symbol of repression of women in the Gulf kingdom and its repeal comes after years of resistance from female activists.

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The shock announcement, which risks riling religious conservatives, is part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious reform push aimed at adapting to a post-oil era and improving a global reputation battered by its human rights record.

“King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud has issued a decree authorising the issuance of drivers’ licences for women in the kingdom,” Saudi state TV said.

“The decree will take effect in June 2018.”

Saudi Arabia will use the “preparatory period” until then to expand licensing facilities and develop the infrastructure to accommodate millions of new drivers, the announcement added.

Conservative clerics in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy ruled according to sharia law, have long justified the ban arguing that lifting it would lead to promiscuity. One of them claimed that driving harmed women’s ovaries.

Many women’s rights activists have been jailed for flouting the ban.

The surprise announcement was widely welcomed, both at home and abroad.

“A glorious day. Can’t hold back my tears,” tweeted Saudi shura council member Latifah Alshaalan. “Congratulations to the women of my homeland.”

Activist Manal al-Sharif, who led the 2011 “Women2Drive” protest movement, tweeted: “Today, the last country on earth to allow women to drive… we did it.”

“It is a testimony to the bravery of women activists who have been campaigning for years that… Saudi Arabia has finally relented and decided to permit women to drive,” rights watchdog Amnesty International said.

Tight restrictions 

Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women.

Under the country’s guardianship system, a male family member — normally the father, husband or brother — must grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities.

It was unclear whether women would require their guardian’s permission to apply for a driving licence.

After Tuesday’s historic announcement, the hashtags “I am my own guardian” and “Saudi Women Can Drive” began gaining traction on social media, while many openly lampooned conservatives who long favoured the ban.

One Saudi woman tweeted a picture of three women in a convertible going shopping, with the message: “Us soon.”

The policy could socially liberate women — heavily reliant on foreign drivers and ride-sharing apps — and also boost the economy at a time of low oil prices by increasing their participation in the workforce, experts say.

The announcement follows a dazzling gender-mixed celebration of Saudi national day at the weekend, the first of its kind, which aimed to spotlight the kingdom’s reform drive despite a backlash from religious conservatives.

Men and women danced in the streets to drums and electronic music, in scenes that are a stunning anomaly in a country known for its tight gender segregation and an austere vision of Islam.

Women were also allowed into a sports stadium — previously a male-only arena — to watch a concert, a move that chimes with the government’s Vision 2030 plan for social and economic reform.

With more than half the country aged under 25, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s son and the architect of Vision 2030, is seen as catering to the aspirations of younger people.

0:00 Women celebrate new Saudi laws allowing women to drive Share Women celebrate new Saudi laws allowing women to drive  

‘A great step’ 

US President Donald Trump welcomed the decision as “a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia”, according to a White House statement.

The US State Department called it a “great step in the right direction”, echoing a similar comment from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Tuesday’s announcement comes at a crucial time for Saudi Arabia.

The oil kingpin is in a battle for regional influence with arch-rival Iran, bogged down in a controversial military intervention in neighbouring Yemen and at loggerheads with fellow US Gulf ally Qatar.

“Allowing women to drive is the biggest PR win that Saudi Arabia — and Prince Mohammed — could have in a single swoop,” said Jane Kinninmont, from London’s Chatham House.

Already viewed as the de facto ruler controlling all the major levers of government, heir apparent Prince Mohammed, 32, is seen as stamping out traces of internal dissent before any formal transfer of power from his 81-year-old father.

His gambit to loosen social restrictions, which has so far not translated into more political and civil rights, seeks to ease criticism over a recent political crackdown, some analysts say.

Authorities this month arrested more than two dozen people, including influential clerics and activists, in what critics decried as a coordinated crackdown.

Trump pick loses run for US Senate

Alabama voters have elected conservative firebrand Roy Moore as the Republican nominee for a US Senate seat on Tuesday, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump.

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An outspoken evangelical Christian, Moore won election with a fierce anti-Washington message and a call to put religion at the centre of public life.

“We have to return the knowledge of God and the Constitution of the United States to the United States Congress,” he said.

With all 67 counties reporting, Moore led Strange by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Despite campaigning for Strange, Trump congratulated Moore for his victory and urged him to defeat Democrat Doug Jones in the December election to fill a seat that was held by Jeff Sessions before he became Trump’s Attorney-General.

“Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Moore is favoured to win the December election, as Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992.

The 70-year-old first lost his seat on the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse and a second time for defying the US Supreme Court’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appeared with Strange at rallies in the race’s closing days.

But Moore said he would back the president if he gets to Washington.

“Don’t let anybody in the press think that because he supported my opponent I do not support him and support his agenda,” Moore said.

More supplies needed as villagers flee Vanuatu volcano

About 7,000 people on the island of Ambae — in the Pacific archipelago’s north — have left their homes after the Manaro Voui volcano rained rocks and ash on their villages.

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The volcano sent up a plume of steam and ash over the weekend after weeks of rumbling, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency.

They have also upgraded Manaro Voui to a level four alert, representing a “moderate eruption state”, and warned of “flying rocks and volcanic gas” up to 6.5 kilometres (four miles) from its crater.

However, aid workers said a more immediate concern was conditions in the 35 evacuations centres set up outside Ambae’s exclusion zone.

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The area was already experiencing a dry spell and ash has now blanketed crops and water sources.

Manuel Ure, a disaster coordinator with the local Penama provincial government, said conditions in the camps were difficult.

“We have very limited shelters, we have very limited food and water and other necessities… we are facing a lot of challenges at the moment,” he told Radio New Zealand.

Red Cross coordinator Augustine Garae said the continuing influx of people was putting more pressure on the camps.

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“The number of evacuees is expected to rise, making facilities at evacuation centres (such) as proper toilets and sanitation not enough for everyone to access,” he told the Vanuatu Daily Post.

A boat with supplies and volunteers left the capital Port Vila on Wednesday and more are expected in the coming days.

A New Zealand Air Force plane conducted an observation flight over the volcano on Tuesday, gathering data to help scientists assess the risk of a major eruption.

The volcano, also known as Aoba and Lombenben, has three lakes in its crater and last erupted in late 2005.

On that occasion about 5,000 people were evacuated and it was three months before the volcano settled enough for them to return home.