Turnbull: refugee swap not affected by US travel ban

The US’ revision of its travel ban won’t impact Australia’s deal to resettle asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru, according to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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“[President Trump] has agreed to honour, continue with, the arrangements entered into with his predecessor,” Mr Turnbull said while in Indonesia for trade talks.  

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The US President issued a revised executive order, suspending the US’ refugee program for 120 days, and banned tourist, immigration and most entries from six other countries for a 90-day period.

The predominately Muslim countries include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, which were included in the original ban back in January. Iraq was removed from the list.

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A proposed temporary ban on Muslims was flagged by President Trump during his campaign last year, with the original suspension put in place to head off attacks by Islamist militants.

“The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Muslims in Australia are utterly appalled by extremism, by violent extremism, by terrorism,” Prime Minister Turnbull said of the ban.

Mr Turnbull pointed to Indonesia, the largest majority Muslim country as an example that “Islam, democracy and moderation are compatible”.  

“Tolerance and mutual respect operate hand in hand and it is a great example to the world,” he said.

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“The vast majority of Australian Muslims are patriotic, hard-working, seeking to get ahead, committed to peacefully living in Australia and abiding by our laws.”

Mr Turnbull slammed comments made by One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson, in an interview to Channel Nine on Monday night, in which she suggested “good Muslims” were hard to spot.

“Trying to demonise all Muslims is only confirming the lying, dangerous message of the terrorists. It is a very important,” Mr Turnbull said.

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Thordis Elva defends Ted Talk with rapist

Monday night’s Q&A featured Icelandic anit-violence campaigner Thordis Elva, journalist Mei Fong, lawyer Josephine Cashman, writer Lindy West and presenter Faustina Agolley.

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The panel spoke about many issues, including the A Day Without Women campaign and Trump’s “so-called misogyny” before addressing the most anticipated issue: Thordis Elva and her path to forgiving her rapist, Tom Stranger.

Elva’s 2016 Ted Talk where she discussed being raped at 16 by Stranger as she stood beside him on stage has been viewed more than two million times. She has since written a book with Stranger detailing the journey of their 20-year process of reconciliation and is currently in Australia as part of her global tour. 

@thordiselva #allaboutwomen ‘women’s stories need to be heard more than ever. We need all the #nastywomen to #makesomenoise @TraceySpicer pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/W3tNMO12rs

— NarelleHooper (@NarelleHooper) March 5, 2017Forgiveness can help victims 

Elva has used her public appearances to emphasise her actions were solely to help her heal.

“Forgiviness is not dependent on the perpetrator’s remorse. Forgiveness was never for him, in fact, it was the polar opposite. It was so I could let go of the self-blame and shame that I had wrongfully shouldered, that were corroding me and basically ruining my life.”

“Forgiveness isn’t for the abuser”, Thordis Elva told Q and A on Monday night,ABC

Elva told the Q&A panel on Monday night about her decision to write to Stranger nine years after the rape because “I just needed to state my case.”

Through Stranger’s “unexpected” reply confessing to the rape, Elva was able to maintain a connection with Stranger and start a dialogue she felt necessary to explore.

“So, after eight years of writing, and nearly 16 years after that dire night, I mustered the courage to propose a wild idea: that we’d meet up in person and face our past once and for all”, Elva told the audience at her Ted Talk.

Not recommended for “the average victim”

While this approach has helped Elva come to terms with her rape,  Josephine Cashman urged Australians to steer clear of going down this path.

Cashman said the process of forgiving a rapist would not help every woman and urged Australians to maintain their faith in the legal system.

“I would advise against anybody in Australia going down this course for public policy reasons, because the courts are the best place, and the police. If someone rapes you, the best place to go is the police.”

While Elva says all traces of physical evidence was gone by the time she realised she was raped, Cashman wanted Australian women to know physical evidence is not essential to beginning a rape investigation in Australia.

Our court system has evolved & it’s not going to work to have rapists contacting victims, says @Josieamycashman @thordiselva replies #QandA pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/d1JA9e5W3w

— ABC Q&A (@QandA) March 6, 2017

Cashman also described domestic violence as “a perpetual cycle”, explaining that too many victims of abuse had gone on to forgive their abusers with subsequent fatal results.

“The only way people like these [perpetrators] changed their behaviour is by being held to account”, she said.

Benefitting from the proceeds of a crime

“Will Tom donate 100% of his proceeds to victims?”, one audience posed, questioning what Stranger would do with the money he is to receive from the book he co-wrote with Elva, “South of Forgiveness”.

Elva explained that as the primary author, she was entitled to the “overwhelming royalties” of the book. Stranger, who received a “small part”, was said to be currently looking into various charities that he could donate his portion to.

Althought Stranger was never convicted, donating his share would align with Australian legislation, where it is against the law to profit from the proceeds of crime.

Why should a rapist profit from his crime? @Josieamycashman & @thordiselva discuss the justice system #QandA pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/a9G1E2jOwE

— ABC Q&A (@QandA) March 6, 2017Changing the rape culture 

When host Tony Jones mentioned some people feeling “confronted” by her Ted Talk with Stranger, Elva clarified she was not glorifying rape.

“It’s not about applauding a rapist but giving them a voice to the immeasurable hurt that he has caused.” 

She said that offenders never spend any jail time in 98 per cent of cases and that her story is one of “millions” that fell through the cracks of the legal system. 

Instead of regulating women’s sexual behaviour. Let’s focus instead on real issue: teaching men why consent matters & never optional. #qanda

— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) March 6, 2017

At a time when “the leader of the most powerful country in the Western world” is normalising sexual assault as “part of men’s culture and locker room talk”, Elva said she’s one of many trying to flip that narrative by calling for abusers to take responsibility for their actions, even when the legal system can’t facilitate it.

Elva told the panel that survivors are consistently told how to cope with their abuse which is another aspect of the victim-blaming culture.

“Part of something that we have to do is to support survivors, to do whatever feels safe for them and not tell them that there is a right or a wrong way to react when you are violated.”

Watch: Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger’s Ted Talk

Trump backs FBI head James Comey amid wiretap friction

US President Donald Trump still has confidence in James Comey the White House says, despite the FBI director challenging Trump’s claim that the Obama administration wiretapped him during the 2016 election campaign.

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Federal Bureau of Investigation head Comey has asked the Justice Department to reject Trump’s accusation that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap at Trump Tower in New York because the claim was false and must be corrected, a federal law enforcement official said.

Asked whether Trump still had confidence in Comey, White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said, “There’s nothing that I have been told by him that would lead me to believe that anything is different than what it was prior.”

He was “almost 100 per cent certain” Trump had not spoken to Comey since the Republican president made the allegation on Twitter on Saturday. “I’m not aware that that occurred,” Spicer told reporters.

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Trump gave no evidence for his claim, the latest twist in a controversy over ties between Trump associates and Russia that has dogged the early days of his presidency.

The wiretapping allegation hit US stocks on Monday. Some investors worried that the affair could distract Trump from his economic agenda of introducing tax cuts and simplifying regulations that has powered a record-setting rally on Wall Street since the election.

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The lack of detail on Trump’s proposals, his isolationist stance and setbacks in filling his Cabinet have made investors question whether the post-election rally has run its course.

Democrats accused Trump of making the wiretapping claim to try to distract from controversy about possible links to Russia. His administration has come under pressure from FBI and congressional investigations into contacts between members of his campaign team and Russian officials.

Government pushes ahead with China extradition treaty

The federal government has begun the process of ratifying a long-stalled and controversial extradition treaty with China.

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The treaty has been on hold since 2007, when it was signed under former Prime Minister John Howard but never ratified.

The government introduced regulations on Thursday to enable the treaty’s ratification in to the lower house. The regulations will have to pass both houses of parliament before the treaty can come into force.

If ratified, Australia will become the third Western country to enter into an extradition agreement with China, joining Spain and France. 

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Australia would be the first of the so-called ‘five-eyes’ alliance, which also includes the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, to ratify an extradition treaty with China.

The move comes as the Chinese government continues its anti-corruption campaign and its so-called “fox-hunt” operation of returning corruption suspects overseas.

The Chinese Public Security Ministry says more than 850 fugitives were returned to China last year, mostly from South-East Asian countries.

The Chinese government has previously released lists of fugitives they believe to be hiding in Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Canada.

Professor of International Law at the University of New South Wales, Andrew Byrnes told SBS News many people in the legal community were concerned about the treaty.

“The Chinese legal system in many respects falls a long way short of the accepted international fair trial standards,” Professor Byrnes said.

“Normally when we deal with those sorts of situations we don’t enter in to extradition treaties with countries where we have real concerns.”

The treaty had clauses allowing for extradition to be denied on the basis of the death penalty or concerns of political persecution. 

However, Professor Byrnes said the Australian government wasn’t able to deny extradition based on concerns for a fair trial, a clause that is in 10 of Australia’s other extradition treaties.

He also said the Australian authorities may find it difficult to deny Chinese extradition requests due to diplomatic pressure from Beijing.

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In a statement the Attorney-General’s Department told SBS News each extradition request would be considered on a case-by-case basis, in line with the human rights safeguards in the treaty and the Extradition Act. 

“The treaty contains a range of human rights safeguards which must be satisfied before a person can be extradited,” the statement said.

“Successive Australian governments have given effect to international crime cooperation arrangements, including extradition treaties, to ensure criminals cannot evade justice by simply crossing borders.”   

It isn’t clear whether the regulations to enable the treaty will get through parliament.

The shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus told SBS News the Labor Party was yet to finalise its position on the treaty.

But Labor members of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties raised several concerns around the treaty’s human rights and fair trial safeguards in a report in December.

“Taken together, the deficiencies in the treaty with China and in Australia’s legislative framework for extradition raise concerns for Labor members,” the ‘Dissenting Report’ read.

The committee made recommendations to the government to strengthen safeguards in the treaty. The government accepted some, but not all of the recommendations. 

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Pilates the perfect medicine for Frizell

A prescription of pre-season pilates was just what the doctor ordered for Tyson Frizell’s ongoing back problems.

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The St George Illawarra second rower had back surgery before last season, and suffered a number of flare ups over the most recent summer – including one that almost ruled him out of the Four Nations final.

However he has since partaken in pilates twice a week, and the problems have become a thing of the past.

“It has helped me out a lot,” Frizell said.

“It’s something that I wasn’t used to and something that I had never tried before.”

The Dragons’ forwards have had a history of living a graceful life off the field.

Former teammate Trent Merrin was enlisted in ballet and jazz classes as a young child and now that he’s left the club for Penrith, Frizell has picked up the tag.

“It was pretty bad (at the start),” Frizell said.

“I’m still not so good at it but I’m definitely getting a lot better and it has helped me out a lot.”

Not that his gracefulness was a trait that could be used to describe his hard-running performance against the Panthers on Saturday afternoon.

Free from the pain that troubled him through the off-season, the NSW Origin representative was one of the Dragons’ best in their opening round 42-10 win.

The 25-year-old ran for 120 metres and produced three offloads, working with a starting forward pack that totalled 728 metres in the win.

It also marked the first time the Dragons had put on 40-plus points in more than 21 months, but Frizell and his teammates are refusing to read into the opening-game hype, much like they ignored the pre-season critics.

“It’s round one,” Frizell said.

“We’ve still got to build throughout the year and we’ve still got a big game this weekend.”

One thing he is more confident in though is his future in pilates.

“I’ll be doing that through the whole year,” Frizell said.

“It’s looked after my body so far and it’s only going to help my recovery.”

Island option on table for second Vic port

An artificial island built off the coast of Melbourne’s sewerage plant is one of two options being considered for Victoria’s second container port.

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The proposed Bay West port could be built on a reclaimed island created 1.5km off the shore of the Western Treatment Plant.

An Infrastructure Victoria discussion paper proposes a quay running for more than a kilometre parallel to the Port Phillip Bay coast.

A rail bridge on the northern edge would connect the island to land while distribution centres would sit more than 10km inland.

The agency also presented a port in Hastings, southeast of Melbourne, as an option, but wouldn’t say which one it was leaning towards.

“You certainly don’t judge a match by the score at half-time,” Infrastructure Victoria chief executive Michel Masson told reporters.

“There is another (public) consultation and a lot more work we need to do.”

Hastings has been used for port-related activities since the early 20th century but does not currently handle container trade.

Both the Bay West and Hastings projects are estimated to cost between $3 billion and $3.5 billion, and reach an annual capacity of three million containers – slightly more than the current throughput of the existing Port of Melbourne.

But the report says future upgrades of the Bay West island facility would be much cheaper than at Hastings.

The agency says the Port of Melbourne, leased last year for $9.7 billion, is not expected to reach its capacity of about five million units “for decades”.

Though upgrades at that site are possible, Treasurer Tim Pallas told reporters there is a good economic case to start planning for a second port for the decades to come.

The four-week public consultation period will run until April 3.

Dwelling starts could decline 33%

Australia’s big boom in residential construction could decline sharply and the slide could last for four years if interest rates were to rise.

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Building construction forecaster Dr Kim Hawtrey, from BIS Oxford Economics, has told a conference in Brisbane that low interest rates are fuelling record growth in dwelling commencements across Australia.

Dr Hawtrey says Australia is experiencing its largest boom in commencements with growth of 60 per cent compared to an average 42 per cent since the 1960s.

“That’s larger than any previous cycle and it has lasted for 45 months which is the equal longest cycle over the period,” he told the BIS Oxford Economics forecasting conference on Tuesday.

“The demise of a bull market usually follows a change in policy – it might be an increase in interest rates or reduction in first home owner grants.”

He said that when the bear market follows, it usually goes down by about 24 per cent, on average, but it depended on how much the market had gone up beforehand.

“We’ve got the market going down 33 per cent from here on and taking 48 months to do it,” he said.

“Apartments are the volatile ingredient in what happens next and you have to be a little less confident, therefore, that we would see an orderly contained bear phase following this cycle.”

He said NSW, in particular Sydney, had strong demand for new dwellings but that was not the case elsewhere.

While Victoria was close to hitting an oversupply of apartments, demand for detached houses was strong demand.

Dr Hawtrey said borrowers had taken on huge loans during the boom, increasing the risks when interest rates start rising.

If President Donald Trump stimulates the US economy, as expected, inflation there would rise and that could lead to higher interest rates around the world, including Australia, he said.

NSW green slips shake-up to save $120

NSW drivers will save around $120 a year on their green slip bills as part of a long-awaited overhaul of the “unfair” system.

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Sydney motorists currently pay the highest premiums in the nation – around $703 – while country drivers pay $482 for compulsory third party insurance.

In a bid to drive down those costs, the state government on Tuesday unveiled a plan which includes limiting compensation awarded to injured drivers.

Drivers who suffer whiplash or other minor psychological injuries will only be able to claim compensation for up to six months under the new scheme.

Those with serious injuries will only be able to claim lost earnings for two years, while motorists who are at fault in an accident will now be able to claim benefits for up to six months.

Lump-sum compensation will be retained for those with long-term injuries.

Ms Berejiklian says the new scheme will protect those with genuine injuries, as well as fix the “simply unfair” system which allows insurance companies to rort drivers.

“The only people who stand to lose from today’s reforms are the insurance companies that are making too many super profits from the scheme, and also people who are defrauding the scheme,” she told reporters in Sydney.

NSW motorists have the highest CTP premiums in the country but only 45 cents in every dollar paid for each green slip goes back to injured road users, with the rest divvied up into insurance company profits and legal fees.

Finance Minister Victor Dominello says the reforms will give the State Insurance Regulation Authority more power to monitor and “claw back” insurer profits.

“So that means if they (insurance companies) make super profits one year, the next year they’re going to get a haircut,” he said.

The CTP Green Slip Scheme changes will aim to reduce taxi premiums in metro areas by up to $3000 a year.

The insurance industry has welcomed the changes, with Insurance Council of Australia chief executive Rob Whelan saying the reform is long overdue.

“The ICA looks forward to reviewing the final legislation and assisting to develop the regulations and guidelines that accompany them,” he said in a statement.

A bill to legislate the changes – which will take effect by December – will be introduced to parliament this week.

Coniglio made Giants AFL vice-captain

Stephen Coniglio’s progression from highly-rated youngster to AFL leader has taken another step with his promotion to Greater Western Sydney’s vice-captaincy.

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The star midfielder replaces Heath Shaw in the role after the veteran defender decided to stand aside, with co-captains Phil Davis and Callan Ward retaining their positions for the sixth-straight year.

Coniglio, 23, has played 85 games since being drafted with pick two before the Giants’ inaugural year in 2012.

“From day one, with a number of other guys, we’ve always wanted to chase success and the quickest path to get there is trying to help others to get on board,” Coniglio told reporters on Tuesday.

“That’s a way of leadership and something I’ve really tried to hone down in the last couple of years.”

Shaw maintains a spot in the seven-man leadership group, along with young stars Dylan Shiel, Devon Smith and Josh Kelly, while Matt Buntine drops out.

Coniglio, who captained the side in a pre-season clash last year, is contracted at least until the end of the 2019 season.

Coach Leon Cameron said Davis and Ward’s retention of the co-captaincy since 2012 showed the club was settled heading into the season as premiership favourite.

Shaw was happy to relinquish his duties, Cameron said.

“Myself and Heath had a discussion last week about it,” Cameron said.

“It was actually Heath’s suggestion to say he thought it’s time for one of these young guys to come up and take that extra responsibility, which I agreed.

“To have Phil and Callan lead our club for the sixth year in a row is a great sign of stability.”

Meanwhile, Cameron confirmed prized recruit Brett Deledio would miss at least the first two matches of the season with a calf injury.

“He’s definitely going to miss round one and two,” Cameron said.

“He’s really confident he can get back on track. He had six really good weeks (in pre-season), so that’s the confidence I have in him actually rebounding from this.

“Yes, he’s had a few setbacks. We’re not going to hide away from that.”

Future of major SA power station uncertain

South Australia’s largest power station is no longer operating at full capacity and is coming to the end of its life, a senate inquiry has heard.

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The owners of Torrens Island Power Station say they are looking at ways to replace the station, but high gas prices make new investment difficult, raising fears for the state’s energy future.

AGL Energy’s wholesale markets general manager Richard Wrightson on Tuesday told the senate committee the station has not run at full capacity for more than a year and that it never would again.

“(It) is a very old station and its reliability is poor because it’s very much getting to the end of life,” he told the committee.

“The last time we ran eight units, I think, was in January 2016.

“We did try and get the eight units on for this summer period and we’ve had problems with that asset just because of age.

“That’s not going to change no matter how much money gets thrown at it because it is a 50-year-old plant.”

The energy company provides power to just under half of South Australia’s households, the committee heard.

AGL’s group operations executive general manager Douglas Jackson told the committee they were assessing ways to replace the station.

“We are looking at it on a year-by-year basis making decisions but we are in the very real near term evaluating what work needs to be done to keep it running.”

Senator Nick Xenophon likened the station to a person being on “life support or close to it”.

During the inquiry, AGL Energy revealed it supported an emissions intensity trading scheme.

Asked if such a scheme would motivate AGL Energy to build a new SA station, Mr Wrightson said it would depend on solid bipartisan support across all parties.

“If you want to drive a 30- or 40-year investment, you need bipartisanship,” he said.

Mr Wrightson predicted a shortfall in gas for the coming winter, and that access was critical for the state’s short- and long-term future.

“AGL would love to build a new power station to replace Torrens … but if you can’t access gas, it’s not a feasible opportunity and that’s why you’ve got no new power stations being announced in SA,” he said.

The inquiry follows heatwave conditions across SA in February that resulted in blackouts at 90,000 properties as authorities scrambled to reduce load on the electricity network.