No fear over pole-and-wire sale: Barnett

Western Australians have been told they have nothing to fear from the sale of its state-owned electric utility Western Power as unions ramp up an anti-privatisation campaign ahead of the 2017 election.

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The poles and wires company would not be sold unless he was confident it was in the interests of the state and would have no adverse effect on electricity consumers, Premier Colin Barnett said.

The government is pursuing privatisations and asset sales such as Fremantle Port to deal with soaring multi-billion dollar debt, a budget deficit and several ratings downgrades as the end of the mining boom has hurt the state’s finances.

“Poles and wires businesses around Australia have all been privatised, operate well and in many cases produce lower costs for consumers, which is a good thing,” Mr Barnett told reporters.

Mr Barnett said WA was still the nation’s strongest economy even if the China-driven resources slowdown had hit government coffers through less taxes and royalties.

“Old asset sales will fund the building of new assets and we will see revenues start to improve after probably being at a low point for the last 12 months, and will use that to stabilise the levels of debt and ultimately reduce it,” he said.

UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat has accused the Barnett government of being in a budget mess and bowing to pressure from business to privatise, which would mean poorer services in pursuit of profits.

She cited the new $2 billion Fiona Stanley private hospital as proof of that, after a group of senior clinicians publicly criticised leadership and problems there last month in a newspaper letter.

UnionsWA will be using volunteers to phone voters as part of its campaign.

Man charged with assault after second incident in a week at a Trump rally

Rakeem Jones, 26, was being escorted from the rally on Wednesday night by sheriff’s deputies in Fayetteville when John McGraw hit him, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said.

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McGraw was charged with communicating threats, his online arrest report showed.

That charge can bring up to 45 days in jail and there was no lawyer listed on the report.

This comes after a reporter from US media outlet, Breitbart News Network, was allegedly manhandled by Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, at Tuesday’s rally in Florida.

The incident in Florida on Tuesday, involved Breitbart New Network reporter Michelle Fields, who was allegedly manhandled by Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, as she stepped forward to ask Trump a question.

Washington Post reporter Ben Terris said he witnessed Ms Fields being grabbed and yanked by Mr Lewandowski. 

Fields later posted a photo on Twitter of her arm which showed bruising.

I guess these just magically appeared on me @CLewandowski_ @realDonaldTrump. So weird. pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/oD8c4D7tw3

— Michelle Fields (@MichelleFields) March 10, 2016

Trump’s camp said the event didn’t happen and replied on Twitter by questioning Fields’ character.

Video of the incident in North Carolina was recorded by bystanders showed deputies pinning Jones to the ground, prompting social media criticism on why swift action was taken against him instead of his assailant.

“He had no right to put his hands on me,” Jones said in a telephone interview.

The sheriff’s office said it would conduct an internal investigation, adding deputies accompanying Jones did not see the assault.

Sheriff Earl “Moose” Butler called the attack cowardly.

“Regardless of political affiliation, speech, race, national origin, color, gender, bad reputation, prior acts or political demonstration, no other citizen has the right to assault another person or to act in such a way as this defendant did,” Butler said.

Trump’s campaign rallies are boisterous, with the billionaire businessman often pausing to scold protesters and ask security officers to take them away. At a rally last month in Nevada, he said of a protester: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

Related

The New York real estate magnate is the front-runner to be his party’s nominee for the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Trump’s hour-long speech in the packed North Carolina arena was interrupted at least 16 times, according to a Reuters reporter who attended.

A friend of Jones, Ronnie Rouse, said they attended the event to observe, not protest, and were told to leave after an exchange with another man who Rouse said used a racial slur.

Jones, who works for an inventory company and as a tutor, said the punch by a man in a cowboy hat came out of nowhere as he walked up the stairs to leave. He was then handled roughly by deputies but not arrested, adding his right eye was swollen and bruised.

“The whole arena cheered as I was being escorted out and even more so after I got hit,” he said.

 

 

 

Sukumaran’s final paintings back in Aust

The final paintings by Bali Nine ringleader Myuran Sukumaran have arrived back in Australia, almost a year after his execution in Indonesia.

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The delivery of death row artworks was announced on social media on Friday afternoon by Sukumaran’s mentor and friend, Sydney artist Ben Quilty.

The Archibald winner posted a photo of wooden boxes and wrapped canvases to Facebook with the caption: “Myu’s paintings safely and finally back in Australia”.

It comes more than 10 months after Sukumaran and fellow convicted Bali Nine drug smuggler, Andrew Chan, were executed by firing squad on Indonesia’s Nusakambangan island on April 29, 2015.

The western Sydney pair were arrested in 2005 for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Bali and spent the next decade in Kerobokan Prison.

They were dubbed the ‘godfather’ and the ‘enforcer’ of the nine-person drug syndicate.

One of Sukumaran’s lawyers reached out to Quilty in 2012 after his imprisoned client expressed a desire to learn how to paint.

With the artist’s guidance, Sukumaran began teaching classes to rehabilitate other inmates.

He was awarded an associate degree in fine arts from Curtin University just months before his death.

Some of his most haunting works are believed to be among the cargo, including one of the Indonesian flag dripping with blood and a self-portrait with a gaping hole in his chest where his heart should be.

The oil painting was transported off the island, still wet, by his lawyer Julian McMahon during a three-hour visit at Besi Prison just days before Sukumaran’s death.

A month earlier, Sukumaran revealed a painting of Indonesian President Joko Widodo with the inscription “People can change” after his final plea for clemency was denied.

The 34-year-old’s paintings became noticeably darker as his execution date drew near.

It is not yet known whether they will be exhibited.

One Australian confirmed among 22,000 leaked IS members

A disillusioned former member of the Islamic State group has passed a stolen memory stick of documents identifying 22,000 supporters in over 50 countries to a journalist in a leak that could help the West target Islamist fighters planning attacks.

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A 36-year-old computer engineer using the codename Abu Oubeida Al Loubnani, was the one Australian confirmed on the list.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan will seek a briefing on leaked Islamic State documents when he visits Germany next week.

Mr Keenan said he would not comment on any individual case, but noted he would be in Germany on Monday and Tuesday.

“If there’s information we can share together that enhances the security of Australia, enhances the security of Germany or other friends, we’ll certainly do that,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

Leaks of such detailed information about Islamic State are rare and give Britain’s spies a potential trove of data that could help unmask militants who have threatened more attacks like those that killed 130 people in Paris last November.

A man calling himself Abu Hamed, a former member of Islamic State who became disillusioned with its leaders, passed the files to Britain’s Sky News on a memory stick he said he had stolen from the head of the group’s internal security force.

On it were enrolment forms containing the names of Islamic State supporters and of their relatives, telephone numbers, and other details such as the subjects’ areas of expertise and who had recommended them.

One of the files, marked “Martyrs”, detailed a group of IS members who were willing and trained to carry out suicide attacks, Sky said.

Richard Barrett, a former head of global counter-terrorism at Britain’s MI6 Secret Intelligence Service, said the cache was “a fantastic coup” in the fight against Islamic State.

“It will be an absolute goldmine of information of enormous significance and interest to very many people, particularly the security and intelligence services,” Barrett told Sky News on Thursday.

Sky said it had informed the British authorities about the documents which were passed to its correspondent, Stuart Ramsay, at an undisclosed location in Turkey.

Western security sources said that if genuine, the files could be gold dust as they could help identify potential attackers and the networks of sympathisers behind them, and give insight on the structure of the group.

The defector said the group had been taken over by former soldiers from the Iraqi Baath party of Saddam Hussein, who was ousted in 2003 after the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The forms included answers to 23 questions such as assumed name, birthplace, education level, extent of Sharia learning and previous jobs, as well as details about the individuals’ journey to Islamic State and whether they were potential suicide bombers or more traditional fighters.

Workers leave Palmer’s Qld refinery

Hundreds of workers at Clive Palmer’s embattled Yabulu refinery have bid farewell to their colleagues and don’t know if they’ll work with them again.

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Most of the refinery’s 550 workers had their employment officially terminated from 5pm Friday, four days after Clive Palmer took back control of operations with new company Queensland Nickel Sales.

One worker, who didn’t want to be named, told AAP people cried before leaving, even though their bosses have indicated they will get their jobs back.

He said he doubted half of them would return even if they were offered re-employment.

“(We were) all emotional and didn’t even know if we were going to show up next week,” the father-of-two said.

“We said farewell, a final farewell.”

Mr Palmer has promised to rehire workers once all relevant licences are cleared.

In an email sent to workers, Palmer’s nephew and company director, Clive Mensink, did not give any indication when people would be asked if they’d like to return.

“I would anticipate any offer of future employment would be on the same terms and conditions,” he said in the notice on Friday.

The refinery’s environmental authority has been transferred to Queensland Nickel Sales after a fast-tracked approval process.

Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles has criticised Mr Palmer for making the application on Wednesday, two days after he took the refinery off administrators.

He said the businessman-turned-politician should have known the authority was required.

“None of these approvals should have been news to him,” he said.

“There is now no excuse at all for him to allow these families to spend the weekend not knowing if they have a job on Monday.”

A spokesman for the company told AAP there were around 20 authorisation hurdles, understood to relate to workplace health and safety, to be cleared before the refinery could re-open under Queensland Nickel Sales.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace says the company has been asked on two occasions to provide information needed for the transfer of a major hazard license.

Approval should take around 24 hours once the information is provided, she said.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who visited the refinery on Friday, said he’d asked the prime minister to give retrenched workers access to the Fair Entitlements Guarantee, which is usually reserved for liquidation but can be broadened on ministerial discretion.

Mr Shorten said he thought some of the company’s senior management had not treated affected workers with due respect and called for an investigation into related party transactions.

The refinery’s former operator, Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd, went into voluntary administration in January, just days after 237 workers were sacked.

Those retrenched workers are yet to receive entitlements.

“You just can’t trust Clive,” the worker who has been employed at the refinery for almost six years said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Clive Palmer or Clive Mensink, nobody trusts them.”

Dr Miles released a statement late on Friday saying his department had issued enforcement orders demanding Queensland Nickel Sales take action to ensure the environment is protected.

The notice was issued after the new operator failed to show that it had enough resources to comply with obligations set out by the environmental authority.

Criminal charges could be laid if it fails to comply.

Dr Miles said of most concern was that tailing dams, which hold by-products from the refining process, continue to operate, especially given the refinery sits near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Meanwhile, media are reporting the Port of Townsville has confirmed administrators have cancelled ore shipments due to arrive on Tuesday.