Howard critical of gay marriage activism

Former PM John Howard thinks the attack on Qantas CEO Alan Joyce with a lemon meringue pie as a protest against same sex marriage was appalling but he is sympathetic to the views of the man responsible.


Tony Overheu, a 67-year-old Perth man, says he hid behind a stage for two hours before strolling up to Mr Joyce and shoving the pie in his face during a speech in front of more than 500 people at a business breakfast hosted by The West Australian newspaper on Tuesday.

He was arrested and charged and says he was protesting against CEOs such as Mr Joyce, who are gay, using their brand to run a campaign to pressure the parliament to drop plans for a plebiscite and introduce gas marriage, which he described as corporate bullying and social engineering.

Mr Howard said while “the person who assaulted him should be dealt with according to the law” he questioned whether corporations had the right to speak on behalf of all employees or shareholders on the issue, a view shared by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

He cited the example of gay activists targeting IBM executive Mark Allaby, who was forced to resign from PwC over the fact that both companies publicly support marriage equality and he is a director of the Australian Christian Lobby, which campaigns against it.

“What is also appalling is the fact that people who have a differen0t view to Alan Joyce are harassed – you have activists ringing hotels saying they are going to be boycotted, staff are abused, vilified because they are accommodating a meeting that is going to have an alternative point of view,” Mr Howard said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should honour his commitment to hold a plebiscite, said Mr Howard who would vote against legalising same sex marriage and questioned whether Australians would support it.

Mr Howard was part of a discussion involving John Key, who was the New Zealand PM when it legalised same-sex marriage in 2013.

Xi, new South Korean leader talk nuclear

Chinese President Xi Jinping and new South Korean President Moon Jae-in have discussed nuclear tensions, with the latter addressing the raft of problems posed by the North’s defiance.


Xi told Moon China had always upheld the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and that the nuclear issue should be resolved through talks, which were in everyone’s interests, according to a state television report.

China was willing to keep working hard with all parties, including South Korea, for the peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula, he said.

Despite its anger at North Korea’s repeated nuclear and missile tests, China remains the isolated state’s most important economic and diplomatic backer even with Beijing signing up for tough UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

Beijing also has its own issues with Seoul. China has vigorously opposed the deployment of a US anti-missile system in South Korea, saying it threatens Chinese security and will do nothing to resolve tensions with North Korea.

Thursday’s Chinese state television report made no direct mention of the anti-missile system, instead citing Xi as saying both sides should handle their disputes appropriately.

China also hopes the new South Korean government attaches importance to China’s concerns and takes steps to promote the stable and healthy development of ties, Xi said.

Moon said in his first speech as president on Wednesday he would immediately begin efforts to defuse security fears on the Korean peninsula and would negotiate with Washington and Beijing to ease tensions over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in the South.

He also said he was prepared to go to Pyongyang “if the conditions are right”.

North Korea is believed to be preparing for a sixth nuclear test and is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States, presenting President Donald Trump with perhaps his most pressing security issue.

Apple plans $1.4b US data centre expansion

Apple has announced plans for a $US1 billion ($A1.


4 billion) expansion of its massive data centre east of Reno in the US state of Nevada.

The spend will double its investment in the site and roughly triple its workforce at the technology campus where company officials expect to hire 100 additional workers.

The announcement came as the Reno City Council approved Apple’s plans to build a $US4 million shipping and receiving warehouse on a vacant lot in downtown Reno that will make it eligible for millions of dollars in tax breaks.

“We’re excited to be increasing our contributions to the local economy with an additional $1 billion investment to expand our data centre and supporting facilities,” Apple spokesman John Rosenstock said on Wednesday.

“As part of our growth, we plan to hire 100 employees and expect construction will support an additional 300 jobs.”

Last week, Apple announced a new $US1 billion fund aimed at creating more US manufacturing jobs, but provided few details.

As part of a strategy emphasising its role in the US economy, it also released a state-by-state breakdown of where its 80,000 US employees work – more than half in California’s Silicon Valley.

Apple currently has more than 700 workers in Nevada, which Rosentock says is home to the company’s largest solar investment, “powering our data centre with clean energy.”

The five-year-old $US1 billion data centre is located in the Reno Technology Centre near the Tracy generating station along US Interstate 80.

It’s between Reno and the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center where Tesla’s giant battery factory is based about 25 km east of Reno-Sparks.

Apple was awarded $US89 million in state property and sales tax abatements when it committed to the data centre in 2012.

Labor fractured over Bight oil exploration

A federal Labor senator has broken ranks to side with the Turnbull government over drilling for oil in South Australia’s Great Australian Bight.


A long-running Greens/Labor-dominated Senate inquiry into the plans of companies like BP and Chevron to drill in the area tabled its report in parliament on Thursday.

The 172-page report featured additional comments from Greens, government, Labor and Xenophon Team senators but South Australian Labor senator Alex Gallagher split from colleagues, instead endorsing the comments of coalition senators.

The coalition senators with Senator Gallagher pledged support for oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight subject to oversight from the national offshore petroleum safety authority.

Labor meanwhile recommended amendments to existing laws to ensure consultation with stakeholders and communities and to require oil proponents to publicly release oil spill modelling and emergency response plans.

The Greens oppose any oil or gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight marine national park and are calling for legislation to ban it.

Committee chair Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said thousands of tourism and fisheries jobs would be at risk if oil drilling was allowed.

She used parliamentary privilege to accuse Senator Gallagher of crossing the floor to protect the interests of Chevron.

“Isn’t it interesting that Chevron, the big multinational company that wants to drill for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight donated money to the South Australian Labor party within days of the hearing into that particular issue by the Senate committee,” she told parliament.

Turnbull moving closer to Europe with levy-heavy Budget, commentators say

The proposed increase in the Medicare levy and the new bank levy to meet growing welfare costs have launched Australia ideologically towards the higher-spending, higher-taxing economies of Europe, according to some of the country’s most prominent economic commentators.


But Australia still has a way to go before it reaches the spending levels of countries in Europe’s north, following a Budget that mostly managed to keep a lid on expenditure.

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics at the University of New South Wales Business School, said the $6 billion bank tax is “something of an ideological shift in the more European direction”.

Bank levies became popular in Europe following the Global Financial Crisis. Between 2009 and 2013, 13 European countries introduced compulsory bank levies.


Nicholas Reece, Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne, said when all the political arguing and the headlines had subsided, “probably the most enduring element of this Budget” was the increase in the Medicare Levy to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“To the extent that (the Medicare levy rise) reflects some of the more generous social safety nets in Europe, it would suggest that perhaps this budget is perhaps a step more in the European direction,” he said.

He noted how UK taxpayers have part of their taxes “earmarked” for the National Health Service, an example of how support can be garnered for “difficult but necessary tax increases” to support social security measures.


Mr Reece said the longer-term trend for advanced economies – many of which are in Europe – was rising health expenditure prompted by an ageing population and growing medical costs.

John Daley, CEO of the Grattan Institute, said the 2017 Budget succeeded in slowing this longer term trend. Government payments are expected to hover around 25 per cent of GDP for the next four years.

“Over the last 10 years, the size of government has increased,” he said.

“On the government’s numbers, over the next few years it’s not going to increase any more.”

He said the introduction of the bank levy and an increase in the Medicare levy were a reflection of the Government’s attempt to raise revenue to close the gap on existing expenditure which was relatively small by European standards.

“We’ve got a size of government which is about 42 per cent of GDP – interestingly it makes us smaller than pretty much all of Europe,” Mr Daley said.

While the Budget limited expenditure overall, the share of spending represented by the welfare budget continues to grow.

Australia will spend $164 billion on social security in 2017-18. The following year it rises to $178 billion, growing both in raw amounts and share of spending.

Based on OECD figures, about one in every three dollars spent by state and federal Australian governments goes to welfare. In comparison, northern European countries such as Germany and Sweden spend closer to one in two. In the US, welfare spending is less than one in four.

SBS World News

READ MOREWatch: SBS World News tackles Budget 2017

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Victorian court rules detention of youth in adult jail unlawful

The children were transferred to the Barwon maximum security prison after a riot caused extensive damage to the the Parkville Youth Justice Centre in November 2016.


Supreme Court Justice John Dixon on Thursday found the state government’s decision to create the youth justice wing in the adult prison incompatible with the children’s rights and unlawful.

“The developmental needs of the detainees, specifically their physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs, were significantly limited when Grevillea was re-gazetted as youth justice centre and youth remand centre to which children were transferred,” he told the court.

He said detainees were at risk of developing mental health problems directly related to conditions in the adult prison. 

Watch: Lawyer Alina Leikin on Barwon ruling

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The court heard the detainees were often held in lockdown for up to 23 hours and some were handcuffed during limited periods of release.

Hugh de Kretser, from the Human Rights Law Centre, said the Victorian Government now had the opportunity to “right” their mistake and move the 15 remaining children to an age-appropriate youth justice facility.

Lawyer Alina Leikin said some inmates had been confined to Grevillea for five months and should be moved as soon as possible.

Jesuit Social Services said the Victorian Government’s actions may have already jeopardised the children’s chances of rehabilitation.

The decision sparked a feisty exchange in Victorian Parliament with the opposition calling for the resignation of Children and Families Minister Jenny Mikakos.

The government says it’s disappointed with the ruling and always acted with the children’s and the community’s safety in mind. It is considering whether to appeal the ruling.

Ms Mikakos has said she would make no apology and did what was necessary.


Victims of crime advocate Noel McNamara said he’s disgusted by the ruling.

“Human rights and all that sort of business has just gotta be put out of the way with these people, they terrorise people,” he said.

The Victorian government established the Grevillea Unit at Barwon prison after about 40 inmates rampaged through the Parkville youth facility in November last year.

The legality of the transfer has been challenged in court four times, most recently by the Human Rights Law Centre.

Justice Dixon’s ruling means the children could receive compensation if they choose to sue the government for unlawful detention.

Additional reporting by Luke Waters


Eagles laugh off Bulldogs’ AFL mind games

West Coast coach Adam Simpson has laughed off the mind games ahead of Friday night’s blockbuster clash with the Western Bulldogs, saying on-field intent rather than off-field spying will decide the result.


Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was tetchy on Thursday morning when asked about any changes he’d make for the Perth match.

And there was a shock when the teams were released later on Thursday, with Bulldogs skipper Bob Murphy ruled out because of general soreness.

Jake Stringer (knee) and Josh Dunkley (shoulder) were also forced out, paving the way for Jack Redpath, Bailey Dale and Lukas Webb to return to the side.

Beveridge gave no hint Murphy would be out when he fronted media earlier, and he was reluctant to talk about who else would be in or out.

“West Coast aren’t going to declare their team this early in the day, and I’m not going to either,” Beveridge said.

“I just want it to be a level playing field.

“Have you been watching what’s been happening with the ruck situation over the last couple of weeks? Yeah – so next question.”

Simpson also didn’t want to reveal his squad ahead of time, especially the ruck area where he’d been weighing up dropping Nathan Vardy or Jonathan Giles.

In the end, Simpson decided to axe Giles and bring in ruckman/forward Fraser McInness to partner Vardy.

In the only other change, fit-again midfielder Liam Duggan replaced Mark Hutchings.

Simpson couldn’t help but notice how secretive the Bulldogs had been this week.

“I’ve noticed they’re training at three different venues this afternoon,” Simpson said with a smile, before adding his spies would merely wait at the airport to figure out the Bulldogs’ squad.

“They are little side games that are entertaining, I suppose.

“There’ll be plenty of time for both teams to strategise with selection.

“But that’s secondary really. It’s going to be about the collective.

“It’s a massive challenge – probably the biggest of the year.”

Beveridge and Simpson worked together as assistant coaches at Hawthorn.

Simpson said Beveridge’s uptight nature on Thursday might have been an act.

“He’s not an uptight type of guy. He might have been putting that on. He’s pretty cruisy,” Simpson said.

The Bulldogs ended West Coast’s premiership hopes last year with a shock 47-point win at Domain Stadium.

Simpson said revenge wasn’t a motivating factor for the re-match.

“We used a bit of vision of that game for strategic purposes and what they’re trying to do with the ball,” Simpson said.

“But I won’t be using that as motivation. It’s a completely different season and atmosphere.”

West Coast’s ruck woes are set to ease slightly in coming weeks, with Drew Petrie poised for an earlier-than-expected comeback.

Petrie was initially set to miss about 10 weeks after breaking several bones in his left hand during the round-one win over North Melbourne.

But the 34-year-old has recovered well, and is on track to play next week against Essendon at Etihad Stadium.

The Eagles’ ruck division has struggled without Nic Naitanui (knee) and Scott Lycett (knee).

New South Korean president looks to new direction

Just hours after his decisive election win, Moon Jae-in was sworn into office, marking the beginning of his term as South Korea’s 19th president.


And it has been straight down to business.

President Moon has wasted no time in addressing what is arguably his country’s biggest threat, neighbouring North Korea’s expanding nuclear program.

In a speech at the National Assembly, Mr Moon has pledged to work for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“I will resolve the issue of the national-security crisis as quickly as possible. I will do my best in all directions for peace on the Korean Peninsula. If needed, I will fly to Washington right away. I will visit Beijing and Tokyo, and, if it becomes possible, I will also go to Pyongyang. I will do everything I can to firmly establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

North Korea’s increasingly aggressive nuclear ambitions have sharply increased tensions between the United States and China.

The United States recently deployed a missile-defence system, known as THAAD, in South Korea.

That move had angered China, which says the system’s powerful radars will let the United States spy on China’s military operations.

President Moon had previously questioned the US move, prompting some to speculate his election win could strain diplomatic relations between the two countries.

But Mr Moon is promising to ease tensions all around, pledging to negotiate with both the United States, South Korea’s closest ally, and China, its leading trading partner.

“I will further strengthen the South Korea-US alliance. On the other hand, I will seriously negotiate with the US and China over the issue of THAAD. Solid national security comes from strong national-defence power. I will make efforts to step up our self-defence powers. I will also devise a basis for resolving North Korean nuclear issues.”

The United States maintains its alliance with South Korea is strong.

In a phone call congratulating Mr Moon on his election win, US president Donald Trump agreed to cooperate with the country over North Korea’s increasingly aggressive nuclear ambition.

President Trump acknowledged it was a difficult problem but insisted it could be resolved.

China, too, has renewed its offer to help diffuse tensions.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang congratulated Mr Moon on his election win and said China is willing to work with the new president.

He also assured China would help negotiate a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue, but expressed hope South Korea would recognise his country’s concerns over THAAD.

“China’s position on the issue of THAAD is clear and consistent. We hope South Korea can pay high attention to China’s concerns and handle the relevant issue in a proper way.”

President Moon’s victory marks a major political shift for South Korea, not only in regard to geopolitical relations but also within the country.

He must try to mend a country bruised by a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of former president Park Geun-Hye.

Supporters of Mr Moon in the South Korean capital Seoul say they are hopeful his rule will mark a new era for the country.

“I feel like I’m witnessing a new page in history, so I’m very moved.”

This man was a protester who helped pressure the former president out of office.

“All those nights we spent braving cold winds, keeping vigil in Gwanghwamun Square, finally lead to something. We should all share this joy together.”

Mr Moon won comfortably with 41 per cent of the votes, far ahead of his closest rival.

But data from an exit poll conducted by South Korea’s top three television networks indicates an ideological and generational divide in the country of 51 million people.

The data shows he won most of the votes cast by those under age 50 but more traditional rival Hong Joon-pyo won significant support among older voters.

Still, among the new president’s many promises after barely a day in office is to unify South Korea.


Supreme Court rules detaining youths in Barwon unit ‘unlawful’

Fifteen prisoners, aged 15, 16 and 17, remain in the Grevillea Unit of Barwon Prison, which the Victorian Government re-classified as a youth detention facility.


Justice John Dixon has found the incarceration breaches the teenagers’ human rights through the use of capsicum spray in confined spaces, lock-downs and isolation.

“Extending up to 23 hours in cells designed for occupation by adult men – in addition some children were handcuffed during their limited periods of release from cells – there were children who were either under continuous isolation or restraint for multiple days at a time.”

The juvenile offenders were transferred to the Grevillia unit last year after two youth detention facilities were trashed by inmates.

Lawyer Hugh de Kretser, from the Human Rights Law Centre, says the state government was trying to make a statement through the transfer.

“Obviously they were attempting to portray it as punishing the children for the damage to Parkville but, as we’ve said all along, this decision impacted on many children who had nothing to do with that damage whatsoever.”

Lawyer Alina Leikin, also from the Human Rights Law Centre, says she’s is especially concerned for the inmates confined to Grevillia for five months.

“We know they’ve missed out on education opportunities, they’ve missed out on family connection and these things are crucial to their rehabilitation and, in the long-run, to community safety. The government will now need to move them to a lawful place of detention.”

But victims-of-crime advocate Noel McNamara opposes the decision.

Mr McNamara says he’s met some of the victims of these young offenders, and believes a punitive approach would be more appropriate.

“Human rights and all that sort of business has just got to be put out of the way with these people. They terrorise people, they threaten them and tell them if you open your mouth we’ll come back and get you.”

The decision sparked a fiery exchange in Victoria’s parliament, with the opposition calling for the resignation of defiant Youth Minister Jenny Mikakos.

“We took the steps necessary to keep the community safe, to keep our staff safe, and to keep the young offenders themselves safe.”

It’s not known if the Victorian Government will appeal the decision.

It now needs to decide where it will house the 15 underage detainees and, according to lawyer Hugh de Kretser, there’s a very real chance the matter will now head to further litigation.

“Absolutely there’s the possibility of compensation which is a normal thing that will flow when the government detains someone unlawfully.”

The parties return to the Supreme Court tomorrow.


Nixon comparison with Comey sacking

President Donald Trump’s surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey has drawn comparisons to the Nixon-era “Saturday Night Massacre”.


Both cases involve a president getting rid of an official leading an investigation that could ensnare the White House.

On that Saturday night in 1973, Nixon ordered the firing of the independent special prosecutor overseeing the Watergate investigation, prompting the resignations of the top two officials at the Justice Department.

This week, Trump fired the FBI director in the midst of an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had ties to Russian meddling in the election that may have helped send him to the White House.

Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University, said the comparison was “apt”.

“Obviously there are different circumstances but it’s about a president that’s seeming to lurch into abuse of power,” he said.

Nixon ordered Archibald Cox fired for his continued efforts to obtain tape recordings made at the White House. Cox had said he would not bow to “exaggerated claims of executive privilege” and drop his pursuit of the tapes.

Attorney General Elliot Richardson refused to carry out Nixon’s order and resigned in protest.

Richardson’s deputy, William Ruckelshaus, also refused and resigned as well. Finally, Solicitor General Robert Bork, the third-ranking official at Justice, fired the prosecutor.

In this case, Trump had the power to fire the FBI director himself. The White House cited a Justice Department official’s concerns about the director’s handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices.

But Democrats criticising Trump’s stunning move say the two cases are similar because Comey was overseeing an FBI investigation into both Russia’s hacking of Democratic groups last year and whether Trump campaign associates had ties to Moscow’s election interference.

Three US officials say Comey told members of Congress he had recently asked the Justice Department for more money for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling.

“This is Nixonian,” Democrat Senator Bob Casey declared on Twitter on Tuesday, calling for a “special prosecutor to continue the Trump/Russia investigation”.

The White House has said there is no evidence of any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In his letter to Comey, Trump stressed the FBI director had told him “on three occasions, that I am not under investigation”.

There are some differences. Brinkley noted that the Watergate investigation was further along, while the Russia probe is just beginning. And after Nixon’s firings, Brinkley said a number of Republicans “started going after the leader of their own party” and that has not happened yet in Trump’s case.