Don’t attack Australia Day, government tells local councils

The Turnbull government is warning local councils against launching “politically motivated attacks” on Australia Day amid moves to change the date of citizenship ceremonies.

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Melbourne’s Yarra City council will on Tuesday debate a move to cease references to January 26 as Australia Day from next year.

The council will also vote on whether citizenship ceremonies will be held on that date.

It comes after Freemantle City Council in WA moved their 2017 Australia Day celebrations to January 28, over concerns about the sensitivity of the date for indigenous Australians.

Yarra Council said it had surveyed both the Indigenous and broader community sentiment towards January 26.

The broader community poll indicated a strong level of community support for the proposals.

“Taking a more active role in acknowledging the experience of January 26th of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including specifically a strong level of support for Council supporting the #changethedate campaign,” the council said.

The poll also showed that 51 per cent of multilingual respondents saw January 26 as the National or foundation day, as compared with 25 per cent of English speaking respondents.

“By seeking ways to better recognise and include Aboriginal peoples in Council’s approach to January 26, and by searching for a more inclusive way to celebrate the achievements of our nation, we bring our actions more in tune with the original inhabitants of this land and commence a long overdue healing process for the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community alike,” the council said.

Yarra Council said its moves could encourage others to follow.

“Recognition of Yarra’s position as a local government leader means that actions resulting from adoption of recommendations in this report are likely to have a high level of influence on other local governments in Victoria and beyond.”

But Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has written to councils warning them to oblige by rules around ceremonies or else they’ll lose their hosting rights.

“The government views the recent public actions of Greens-dominated councils, using their ability to host Australian citizenship ceremonies to lobby against Australia Day on January 26 as a breach of the Code,” he said in a statement.

Mr Hawke said the government considers January 26 the most appropriate day for ceremonies to be held.

“As long as Australia Day is celebrated on 26 January, this is a most appropriate date for a citizenship ceremony to take place,” he added.

“Local councils are now on notice that if they politicise Australian citizenship, the Government will see it as a breach of the code and take the appropriate action.”

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Eighteen die in Burkina Faso terror attack

Suspected Islamist militants have killed at least 18 people and wounded several others during a raid on a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital overnight, but security forces shot dead both attackers and freed people trapped inside the building.

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“This is a terrorist attack,” Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou told a news conference on Monday.

Burkina Faso, like other countries in West Africa, has been targeted sporadically by jihadist groups. Most attacks have been along its remote northern border with Mali, which has seen activity by Islamist militants for more than a decade.

A Reuters witness saw customers running out of the Aziz Istanbul restaurant in central Ouagadougou as police and paramilitary gendarmerie surrounded it, amid gunfire.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said two Canadians were among the dead and French Foreign Affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a French citizen was killed.

Lebanon’s interior ministry said three Lebanese died, including one who was also a Canadian national.

Earlier, Burkina Faso Foreign Affairs Minister Alpha Barry said at a news conference that seven Burkinabes, two Kuwaitis, a Nigerian, a Senegalese and a Turk were also among at least 18 killed.

French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the situation with Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore, his office said, including the role of a new multinational military force aimed at fighting Islamist militants across the vast Sahel region of Africa.

A woman said she was in the restaurant celebrating her brother’s birthday when the shooting started.

“I just ran but my brother was left inside,” she told Reuters TV as she fled the building.

For many it was a grim echo of a similar attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 in which 30 people were killed. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility.

‘We don’t have a problem’: Labor firm on citizenship, denies problems

Federal Labor is standing by the eligibility of its MPs to sit in parliament as it ramps up pressure on the prime minister to stand Barnaby Joyce aside while his fate is decided by the High Court.

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The Turnbull Government has referred its own deputy leader to the High Court over his dual citizenship. 

Under section 44 of Australia’s Constitution, dual citizens are ineligible to serve in parliament.

If he were disqualified, Turnbull Government’s one-seat majority in the lower house would be threatened.

The government is attempting to turn the tables on Labor by nominating five opposition MPs – including Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Tony Zappia – it has questions about.

But senior Labor figures insist the party has rigorous vetting processes in place for candidates.

“We are entitled to be absolutely confident that we don’t have a problem,” frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon told ABC radio on Tuesday.

Mr Joyce broke the news himself on Monday, revealing the New Zealand High Commission had contacted him last week to advise he may be a New Zealand citizen. 

“Needless to say, I was shocked to receive this information,” he said.

“I’ve always been an Australian citizen born in Tamworth. Neither my or my parents had any reason to believe that I may be a citizen of any other country.” 

“The New Zealand Government has no record of registering me as a New Zealand citizen.”

Later on Monday, that suspicion was confirmed by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English.

“Unwittingly or not, he’s a New Zealand citizen,” Mr English said. 

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0:00 Question Time August 14: Turnbull speaks about Barnaby Joyce citizenship issue Share Question Time August 14: Turnbull speaks about Barnaby Joyce citizenship issue

New Zealand’s Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne confirmed Mr Joyce had inherited his citizenship automatically by descent, on account of his Kiwi father.

“It’s automatically passed on, I don’t know whether he [Mr Joyce] knew or not,” Mr Dunne reportedly told Radio NZ.

“He says he didn’t know, he says he was under the belief his father had renounced the New Zealand citizenship.

“But the fact is it is all irrelevant – if he was eligible to receive the citizenship at the time, under our legislation he does, regardless of his subsequent circumstances,” he said.

Turnbull confident Joyce will survive legal challenge

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government was “very confident” about its legal advice that Mr Joyce would survive the High Court process. 

The government has received advice from the Solicitor-General on the matter. 

The High Court is already considering the cases of two resigned Greens senators – Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters – as well as LNP Senator Matt Canavan and One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, who are both remaining in their jobs until the cases have been heard. 

Senator Ludlam was revealed as a New Zealand citizen, while Senator Waters discovered she was a Canadian citizen.

The court is considering whether Senator Canavan, who stepped down as from his frontbench post as resources minister but not from the Senate, should be disqualified because of his dual Italian citizenship. 

Senator Roberts has been accused of once holding British citizenship, though he claims he renounced it before he was elected. 

Labor demands Joyce stand aside 

Labor is ramping up pressure on Mr Joyce to follow the lead of his Nationals colleague Senator Canavan and resign from his ministry until his eligibility case is settled. 

The opposition has also seized on the prospect that Mr Joyce’s dual citizenship may threaten the Turnbull Government’s slim hold on the majority. 

Labor’s Tony Burke said, “We don’t know whether this government has a deputy prime minister eligible under the Australian Constitution, and we don’t even know whether we have a majority government in this country.”

Mr Burke said the government should force Mr Joyce to immediately resign from cabinet. 

Mr Joyce said he was so confident in his legal grounding that he would continue to serve as deputy leader until the court decides his political fate.

“Given the the strength of the legal advice the government has received, the prime minister has asked that I remain deputy prime minister and retain my ministerial duties,” Mr Joyce said. 

Labor pressed the government on why Senator Canavan was expected to stand aside from ministerial duties, but the same did not apply to Mr Joyce. 

“It’s up to Matt Canavan, and I guess up to Barnaby Joyce, to explain what the distinction is between his case and Senator Canavan’s case,” Labor MP Anthony Albanese said. 

Mr Turnbull has written to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, offering Labor the “opportunity” to refer any of its own MPs or senators. 

But Labor has again reasserted its confidence that every Labor member was properly elected. 

New Zealand lawyers say Joyce’s consent not required

Several New Zealand lawyers specialising in citizenship law told SBS World News that Mr Joyce would not need to sign a form or register for New Zealand citizenship to receive his rights through descent.

“It’s very possible that Barnaby became a citizen, even though he never knew anything about it and has never registered or had a passport or anything like that,” according to Anna Hood, an international law expert at the University of Auckland.  

Migration lawyer Jack Cheng at the Queen City Law firm, also in Auckland, agreed that Mr Joyce would not need to consciously agree to become a citizen. 

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Jury finds radio DJ assaulted Taylor Swift, awards her $1

A jury in Denver federal court deliberated for four hours before allowing her complaint that David Mueller had fondled her buttocks during a photo opportunity in 2013.

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Swift was awarded the nominal $1 in damages she had asked for, capping an emotional day for the “Bad Blood” singer, who had broken down in tears during the closing arguments.

The 27-year-old diva issued a statement thanking the court and acknowledging her  legal team for “fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault.”

“I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this,” she said.

“My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”

In this Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, file courtroom sketch, pop singer Taylor Swift speaks from the witness stand during a trial, in Denver (AAP)AAP

The singer had turned away from the public gallery to wipe her eyes earlier in the day as Mueller’s lawyer Gabriel McFarland questioned whether his client would have any reason to assault the star. 

The singer’s mother, Andrea Swift, also had tears in her eyes during the session as she handed her daughter tissues.

“I don’t know what kind of person grabs or gropes a music superstar, but it’s not that guy,” McFarland told the court.

He repeatedly said the singer was wrong in her assertion that Mueller had stuck his hand under her skirt and “grabbed her bare ass cheek” during a meet-and-greet before Swift’s gig at the Pepsi Center.

Related reading’No means no’ 

Swift’s aides complained to the DJ’s radio station of the incident and he lost his job.

Mueller launched a $3 million lawsuit against Swift in 2015 for loss of earnings, arguing it was her allegations that had got him sacked, while the popstar counter-sued for sexual assault.  

US District Judge William Martinez scaled back the case on Friday, ruling that there was no evidence for Mueller to be entitled to damages from Swift personally. 

The six woman, two-man jury ruled Monday that Swift’s mother and radio consultant Frank Bell weren’t liable for damages either.

Doug Baldridge, Swift’s attorney, had told the jury in his closing arguments that the sole issue to be determined was whether someone like Mueller should be allowed to humiliate or assault a woman.

“Should aggressors like Mr. Mueller be allowed to sue their victims?” Baldridge asked the jury.

The dollar in damages Swift sought “is of immeasurable value,” Baldridge said, adding: “It says ‘no means no.’ It tells every woman that they will decide what happens to their bodies.”

Baldridge told reporters outside the courthouse that the jury had “knuckled down and did the right thing.”

“Something really big happened here today. It took someone as prominent as Taylor Swift to stand up and say no,” he said.

“This really means something for the one in four women who are victims of sexual assault.”

Transgender US military ban not a done deal, Mattis hints

In a series of tweets, Trump last month upended an Obama-era policy of more than a year that allowed transgender troops to serve openly.

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But in the weeks since the July 26 tweets, the White House has not issued formal guidance to the Pentagon explaining how a ban would work, or what would happen to those transgender troops who have already come out.

Mattis said he had “no doubt” that the White House would be providing additional guidance, and said the Pentagon is giving military input as it studies the issue.

“The policy is going to address whether or not transgenders can serve under what conditions, what medical support they require, how much time would they be perhaps non-deployable, leaving others to pick up their share of everything,” Mattis told Pentagon reporters. 

“There’s a host of issues… it’s obviously very complex.”

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The current Obama-era policy remains in place for now. When pushed on whether the Pentagon will still employ transgender troops, Mattis said: “We are going to study the issue.”

He added that the Pentagon had received no White House directions that would “indicate any harm to anybody right now.”

In a lawsuit filed in federal court last week, five transgender women from the Air Force, Coast Guard and the Army said they faced uncertainty about their futures, including whether they would be fired or lose post-military and retirement benefits.

The number of transgender troops among America’s 1.3 million active duty service members is small, with estimates topping out at 15,000.

Trump’s tweeted announcement came with little apparent coordination with the Pentagon and landed while Mattis was on vacation.

Several senior military officials have voiced unease over the policy shift, with the head of the Coast Guard saying he would not “break faith” with transgender personnel.

Trump last week said he did the Pentagon a “great favor” by banning transgender troops, saying the issue had been “complicated” and “confusing” for the military.