Federal and state governments bicker over parole after Brighton attack

The Federal Government is still struggling to understand how he was granted parole despite having terrorism links.

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The Prime Minister is playing down suggestions from Victoria that Australia’s spy agency should have the power to intervene in future parole decisions.

Twenty-nine year-old Australian citizen and former Somali refugee Yacqub Khayre was killed by police after he murdered a man, took a hostage and shot three police officers on Monday.

Police said he had made claims that night he was doing it for al-Qaeda.

He had been acquitted of involvement in a planned terrorist attack on a Sydney Army barracks in 2009, but had a lengthy criminal history.

Despite that, the Victorian legal system granted him parole in December.

The head of Victoria’s Adult Parole Board, Judge Peter Couzens told Melbourne radio station 3AW:

“The board received absolutely no information from either corrections or external services which would cause us to have any concerns about risks to the public. We had been told nothing about him that would indicate any suggestion of risk. Had we been told, we would’ve acted.”

Attorney-General George Brandis says the parole board should’ve looked at his entire legal history.

“The Victorian Parole Board apparently only looked at the charge under which he’d been imprisoned and didn’t look back beyond that to the fact he had terrorist antecedents. Had they done so, it’s inconceivable he would’ve been released on parole so readily.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told 3AW he agreed.

“Everybody knew, it was a matter of public knowledge, that he had been involved in extremist activities. Yes, he had been acquitted but there was no doubt he had associations and engagement, involvement with violent extremist elements.”

Judge Peter Couzens said counter-terrorism police did contact them about Khayre, but only to ask for a current phone number so they could return some property to him.

“You would’ve thought, Neil, that if the federal authorities were concerned about this person as a risk, they would’ve been more concerned about that then returning property to him.”

Facing intense scrutiny about how this happened, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews told Channel Seven criminals with known terrorist links should only be released from prison with Commonwealth approval.

“ASIO and the Australian Federal Police are after all the primary experts in this matter. This is a national issue and we need to work together and all be involved in this.”

The Prime Minister is unimpressed by the proposal.

“Of course it can seek advice and information from other agencies but I think many Victorians would be shaking their heads at the prospect of the Victorian Premier wants to abdicate his responsibility as leader of the government of Victoria.”

Attorney-General George Brandis says every state needs to take a stronger stance on parole for those with terrorist links.

“I think the public are entitled to expect that for people who present that level of danger to the public and who have a terrorism backgound, there should be a presumption against bail or parole except in a very clear case.”

 

An emotional farewell for child sex abuse victims’ advocate

Anthony Foster has been farewelled as a passionate campaigner who helped survivors of sexual abuse deal with their grief, and a dedicated father who loved his children and grandchildren dearly.

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His efforts contributed materially to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations.

Mr Foster began campaigning against child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church after learning two of his daughters were sexually abused by their priest.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews offered the family a state funeral, saying Anthony and Chrissie Foster helped transform victims and give them a voice.

“The Fosters were fighting for every childhood that had been taken and for every family that had been broken. While perpetrators and their protectors continued to deny and hide, the Fosters defied that culture of silence. Anthony and Chrissy shone a powerful light on one of our darkest chapters.”

Ann Barker, former MP for Oakleigh, also spoke at the memorial.

Ms Barker took the Fosters’ book “Hell on the way to Heaven” to the state parliament, and called for an inquiry into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

“Anthony and Chrissie fought hard and long for their daughters and their family and they continued to fight for full justice. They saw systems that failed in so many ways, that put up barriers at every opportunity, and covered up crimes against children. They didn’t step back from those many victims and survivors, they stepped forward.”

Although Mr Foster became a high-profile advocate for victims of sexual abuse, he was remembered at the service as a devoted family man.

His brother, Brian Foster, told those attending how proud he was of his brother.

“Anthony’s greatest achievement, outside his family, became his campaign to expose child sex abuse and cover-ups, initially in the catholic church and later in wider areas of the community. To this he dedicated the final 21 years of his life. This is his legacy. In pursuing justice, the personal costs to Anthony and Chrissie have been enormous. Dear brother, we are immensely proud of you, rest in peace.”

Anthony Foster’s mission for justice started when he found out two of his daughters, Emma and Katie, were sexually abused by Father Kevin O’Donnell at their Melbourne primary school between 1988 and 1993.

Emma took her life in 2008 and Katie was hit by a car in 1999, leaving her with brain damage and in need of 24-hour care.

Katie spoke at the memorial and thanked her dad.

“Hey dad, thanks for always making me feel special. You were so smart, wise and giving, and a generous man. Love always, Katie.”

Mr Foster’s other daughter, Amy, also spoke.

“Throughout unthinkable loss and grief, his spirit never ceased to blossom, how can one man be so strong. Despite all, he kept on keeping on, he never turned to vices designed to numb, nor to rage or blame, instead he took his pain and turned it inside out and clutched tightly to empathy and justice. Regardless, his untimely death points to all that he endured. I am so fortunate to have been this rare man’s daughter, what a privileged life I have lived. You can rest in peace now dear dad, we will be okay because you have showed us the way.”

 

Ramadan just the first challenge for Aussie boxer

Elmir is currently observing Ramadan – just the first of many challenges she will face this year.

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It’s common for Bianca Elmir to abstain from eating and drinking before a training session.

But the physical demands of boxing means she isn’t be able to fast every day.

“Sometimes it can get very overwhelming with the training schedule that I’ve got on and leading up to a fight it’s very difficult because everything is assessed you know like how much you’re drinking, how much you’re eating, because I have to be perfectly a certain weight, to the gram.”

When she does fast, it’s done with a purpose.

“I’ll dedicate it towards something, so you know the other day I dedicated it to just recognising my environment and I was just really mindful of my environment all day because I made the intention of fasting for – obviously, first for God – but then secondly to be mindful of my environment, care and respect it. I was trying to pick up rubbish around me and just being really grateful for everything around me, just being mindful of trees and all these really beautiful things.”

Elmir has been a Muslim since she was a child.

The 34 year-old admits being open about her faith still presents its challenges.

“As soon as I say I’m Muslim I have to automatically defend myself, I’m in a defensive position, and that’s a really negative experience.”

In November, she will attempt to qualify for next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Her trainer, former Olympian Jamie Pittman, says Elmir is destined for success.

“If she can continue to grow and improve and stay obsessed with boxing the way she has the last six weeks she will be going to the Commonwealth Games and winning a gold medal, I’ve got no doubt in hell that she will be the best 51kg in the Commonwealth.”

Elmir hopes achieving that goal will inspire other young Muslim women in Australia.

“For other Islamic women I would hope that I can lead by example, in showing that ‘be comfortable in your own skin, things will get tough sometimes, it’s tough for everyone just being a human being in this world and if you just try hard and do as much as you can to be the person that you can be, then anything is possible.’ I honestly believe that.”

 

No kisses but Harry’s fans get Sydney hugs

It was a case of deja vu for Daphne Dunne and Victoria McRae when the pair came face to face with Prince Harry for a second time on the shores of Sydney Harbour.

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In the pouring rain on Wednesday, the elderly woman who embraced Harry in 2015 and the young female fan who famously stole a kiss from the prince during that trip were willing to get wet to do it all again.

The two fans were part of a 200-strong crowd who waited in the rain to catch a glimpse of Harry as he walked around Circular Quay after watching a sailing demonstration as part of the 2018 Invictus Games preparations.

The 97-year-old was at it again on Wednesday, but this time she was armed with a blanket and umbrella.

“He’s marvellous, I’ve met him before and he’s an absolute gem,” Ms Dunne told AAP.

“I’ve been waiting a couple of hours, but it’s worth it, even with this heavy rain.”

And Ms Dunne was rewarded for her patience.

Not only did the British royal remember her but the 32-year-old appeared visibly excited as he gave the 97-year-old a hug and had a brief chat.

In a moment that melted the hearts of onlookers, Prince Harry even tucked Ms Dunne’s blanket in and fixed up her umbrella before he continued on his walk.

While there were no kisses during this visit the prince did receive some phone numbers and photographs – including one from Ms McRae capturing the moment the then-21-year-old stole a kiss two years ago.

Ms McRae confessed to having a copy of the picture on her bedroom wall and she’s hoping Harry might put his copy up at home in London too.

“I don’t think it’s likely but it’s good to pass it on,” she told AAP on Wednesday.

Ms McRae, who was wearing a plastic crown and holding a Union Jack flag, wasn’t disappointed she didn’t get a kiss this time but claimed she was “happy with what I got”.

“We shook hands and we talked about our last rendezvous – it was great,” she said.

Many fans screaming as Prince Harry made his way through the crowd with one heard yelling out: “Isn’t this amazing that someone can bring this many people so much joy!”

UAE turns screws on Qatar

The United Arab Emirates has tightened the squeeze on fellow Gulf state Qatar by threatening anyone publishing expressions of sympathy towards it with up to 15 years in prison, and barring Qatari passport or resident visa holders entry.

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Efforts to defuse the regional crisis – prompted on Monday when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over alleged support for Islamist groups and Iran – showed no immediate signs of success.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash threatened more curbs if necessary and said Qatar needed to make “iron-clad” commitments to change policies on funding militants. Qatar vehemently denies giving such support.

US President Donald Trump took sides in the rift on Tuesday, praising the actions against Qatar, but later spoke by phone with Saudi King Salman and stressed the need for Gulf unity.

His defence secretary, James Mattis, also spoke to his Qatari counterpart to express commitment to the Gulf region’s security. Qatar hosts 8000 US military personnel at al Udeid, the largest US air base in the Middle East and a launchpad for US-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group.

Kuwait’s emir has also been seeking to mediate, meeting Saudi’s king on Tuesday.

Qatar’s isolation from powerful fellow Arab states advanced, however.

UAE-based newspaper Gulf News and pan-Arab channel Al-Arabiya reported the crackdown on expressions of sympathy with Qatar.

“Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” Gulf News quoted UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi as saying.

On top of a possible jail term, offenders could also be hit with a fine of at least 500,000 UAE dirhams, the newspaper said, citing a statement to Arabic-language media.

Since the diplomatic row erupted, slogans against and in support of Qatar have dominated Twitter in Arabic, a platform used widely in the Arab world, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

Newspapers and television channels in the region have also been engaged in a war of words over Qatar’s role.

The UAE’s state-owned Etihad Airways, meanwhile, said all travellers holding Qatari passports were currently prohibited from travelling to or transiting through the emirates on government instructions.

Foreigners residing in Qatar and in possession of a Qatari residence visa would also not be eligible for visa on arrival in the UAE, Etihad spokesman said in an email.

UK election campaign enters final day

Britain has entered the final day of campaigning ahead of a parliamentary election that will define its approach to leaving the European Union but has been overshadowed by two militant attacks in as many weeks.

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Prime Minister Theresa May unexpectedly called the June 8 election seven weeks ago, seeking to boost her parliamentary majority ahead of the start of Brexit negotiations and to win more time to deal with the impact of the EU divorce.

But the campaign has seen a number of unexpected twists, including the deadliest militant attack in Britain since 2005 and a sharp contraction in May’s once commanding lead of over 20 percentage points in opinion polls.

Attacks by Islamist militants in Manchester and London threw the spotlight on security, while May was forced to backtrack on a social care policy pledge in a move that pundits said was unprecedented in British election campaign history.

“Give me your backing in the polling station tomorrow to battle for Britain in Brussels,” May said. “Get those negotiations wrong and the consequences will be dire.”

May has repeatedly said only she can deliver the right deal for Britain and that opponents would lead its $US2.5 trillion ($A3.3 trillion) economy to ruin in the negotiations with the EU.

Pollsters expect May to win a majority.

But if she fails to beat handsomely the 12-seat majority her predecessor David Cameron won in 2015, her electoral gamble will have failed and her authority will be undermined both inside her Conservative Party and at talks with the 27 other EU leaders.

When May stunned political opponents and financial markets by calling the snap election, her poll ratings indicated she could be on course to win a landslide majority on a par with the 1983 majority of 144 won by Margaret Thatcher.

But May’s poll lead has shrunk over the past three weeks. Latest polls put her party anywhere between 12 to 1 point ahead. One projection said she would win a majority of 64 seats.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a radical socialist once written off by many as a no-hoper leading his party to its worst election defeat, has run a strong campaign.

May and her husband Philip were greeted with jeers of “Vote Labour” as they visited a London meat market on Wednesday.

The last week of campaigning has been held in the shadow of an attack by three Islamist militants who on Saturday drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before heading towards bars and restaurants, slitting throats and stabbing people, killing seven people and injuring dozens.

Corbyn has put the Conservatives on the back foot over the issue of security, critcising May for a drop in police numbers in her time as interior minister. May hit back with a pledge to crack down on Islamist extremism and strengthen police powers.

Two Australian terror victims mourned

The ‘Angel of London Bridge’ and a much-loved Brisbane nanny are being mourned as Australian victims whose lives were claimed in the London terror attacks.

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The family of Brisbane 21-year-old Sara Zelenak confirmed her death on Wednesday, a day after relatives of South Australian nurse Kirsty Boden identified her as the other Australian among the seven killed in the weekend attack.

Ms Zelenak was killed after being separated from her friend while trying to flee from the chaos as three men ploughed a van through pedestrians on London Bridge on Saturday night.

Ms Boden was hailed a hero, and dubbed by British media the ‘Angel of London Bridge’, for running to help victims of the stabbing and van attack, only to fatally stabbed herself.

“As she ran towards danger, in an effort to help people on the bridge, Kirsty sadly lost her life,” her family said.

“We are so proud of Kirsty’s brave actions which demonstrate how selfless, caring and heroic she was, not only on that night, but throughout all of her life. Kirsty – we love you and we will miss you dearly.”

Ms Boden, 28, worked in the theatre recovery ward at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, which said she was a “one in a million” nurse who “always went the extra mile for the patients in her care”.

It was unclear if Ms Boden was hurt on the bridge or when the three men in the van went on a stabbing rampage in nearby Borough Market before they were shot dead by police.

Ms Zelenak’s mother Julie Wallace had told Brisbane radio station 97.3FM she was fortunate to evade two prior terror attacks.

Ms Zelenak had a ticket but did not go to the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, the site of last month’s suicide bombing, and was also at Westminster Bridge a day before that deadly rampage in March.

Her family had been bracing for the worst after appealing for information in a Facebook post shared hundreds of times on Monday, saying she usually rang her mother daily.

“Even though there was limbo for days, there was still a bit of hope,” her aunt, Tara, said on Facebook.

“We are all so distraught to have lost our little Sara.

“She is the most beautiful, happy, positive young lady with so much to live for.

“Her heart and spirit will live on in all of us.”

Visiting Sydney to launch the Invictus Games, Prince Harry paid tribute to the women and acknowledged the role of the thousands of Australians living in London.

“Australians form an important and vibrant part of the fabric of life in London and we are reminded of that in good times and bad,” the prince said.

“Our hearts go out to the victims, their friends and families.”

The women’s deaths follow that of Melbourne man Sam Ly, 28, who was among the 52 killed in the London bombings in 2005.

Government officials are yet to release the names of the women, however Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spoken with Ms Zelenak’s family.

“I am a father … Kirsty or Sara could be one of my kids, it could be one of your kids,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW on Wednesday.

“This is heart-rending, this is the last thing anybody expects to happen to their children when they are in London.”

Vic Islamic Council withdraws from deradicalisation program after attack

The heart-broken mother of 36-year old Kai Hao, also known as “Nick” Hao, flew from China to Melbourne upon learning of her son’s tragic death.

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The 63 year-old, who doesn’t want to be identified by name, says she is devastated.

“The child is for my old age and now I have lost my support. I will go back to China now and all I will bring back is my son’s remains.”

Flowers and cards have been placed outside the serviced apartment in Brighton, in Melbourne’s southeast, where the recently-married father of one worked as a receptionist.

Also present on Monday night was a 36 year-old woman, who was held hostage before being released unharmed.

The two police officers seriously injured in the gun-fight are recovering in hospital after minor surgery.

The family of deceased gunman Yacqub Khayre, a Somali refugee, say he had been fasting for Ramadan and, despite his extensive criminal history, appeared quite settled in the days leading up to the attack.

The 29 year-old Khayre once participated in a de-radicalisation program funded by the Victorian government and endorsed by the Islamic Council of Victoria.

Just yesterday the state’s corrections minister, Gayle Tierney, told parliament the program would be extended by four years and would be delivered by the Islamic Council of Victoria.

But the Islamic Council of Victoria says that statement is incorrect.

Spokesman Adel Salman says the Council is withdrawing its stakeholder support, and directing resources elsewhere.

“We’re looking to expand our focus on youth and youth issues, family violence, women’s issues, capability and development across the Muslim community and engagement with our partners across the broad spectrum.”

Mr Salman says the Council will provide advice and assistance if requested.

 

Claims Russian hackers’ fake news sparked Qatar’s regional crisis

The number of countries severing ties with Qatar has increased, with Mauritania also backing the move.

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Trucks that should be streaming across the Saudi border, delivering vital food and supplies to Qatar, are banking up because of the worsening diplomatic crisis.

Qatar’s usually busy highways are all but empty after the Arab world’s biggest powers – including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – cut relations with the Gulf nation.

Qatari planes are banned from landing or crossing their air space, forcing them over Iran.

Supermarket shelf supplies are already dwindling and these shoppers are starting to feel the impact.

“I am feeling that there’s shortage of fresh chicken.”

“The only shortage I can see is the milk. Otherwise, I don’t think there is any shortage or… nothing unusual ….”

About two million of Qatar’s two-and-a-half million population are foreign nationals.

The Philippines is refusing to send any more workers, concerned about the fate of the 140,000 already there.

United States President Donald Trump is claiming credit for the pressure being placed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbours, that accuse it of supporting terrorism.

Mr Trump has tweeted his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was “already paying off”.

“They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism and all reference was pointing to Qatar,” he wrote, “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

His spokesman, Sean Spicer, later tried to soften the presidential statements against Qatar, which is at the centre of US military operations in the region.

“The President had a very, very constructive conversation with the Emir during his visit in Riyadh. At that time, he was very heartened by the Emir’s commitment to formally joining the terrorist financing targeting centre and showing their commitment to this issue.”

And there are now suggestions Russia could be behind the crisis, with claims a fake news report planted by hackers contributed to the chaos.

Qatar says the US has sent FBI agents to investigate the alleged hacking incident.

Qatar’s neighbours accuse it of supporting Islamist militants, a claim Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani denies.

“There is no support going to Al Nusra or al-Qaeda or others. Whatever is being thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation.”

That misinformation has fuelled the worst split between these powerful Arab states in decades.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, says Qatar must take several steps, including ending its support for the Palestinian group Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, to restore ties.

“We want to see Qatar implement the promises it made a few years back with regard to its support for extremist groups, with regards to its hostile media, with regards to its interference in the affairs of other countries. And we have taken this step with great pain in order to make sure that Qatar understands that these policies are not acceptable and not sustainable and that they must change.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he hopes the various parties can negotiate a solution.

“We’re hopeful that the parties can resolve this through dialogue and we encourage that, that they do sit together and find a way to resolve whatever the differences are that have led to this decision.”

 

Eels urged to fix attack quickly

If there’s anyone who knows his defensive limits, it’s Beau Scott.

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The Parramatta hardman is renowned for his grit and tenacity, exemplified when he collapsed with exhaustion after tackling himself to a standstill in State of Origin I last year.

So when Scott warns the Eels of the consequences of relying too much on their defence, they should listen.

“It’s going to take its toll on you,” Scott said on Tuesday.

“We need to get our attack together now.

“We’ve had enough time together as a playing group to form a few combinations, and that’s what we’ll be trying to get together over the next couple of weeks.”

The resurgent Eels have now strung three consecutive wins after shutting out Wests Tigers on Sunday, and are one of five teams on top of the table with six points.

However a poor points differential – their 52 total points is 14th in the NRL – leaves them in fifth.

“We’re far from our best,” Scott said.

“We’re winning games on the back of our defence. That’s what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. But to do it in a bit better fashion and put a few more points on teams would be nice as well.”

The recovery of skipper Kieran Foran’s hamstring should help.

The big-name recruit has struggled to stay on the training paddock over his first six months at Parramatta due to a troublesome hamstring injury.

But winger Clinton Gutherson said the Kiwi international recently left the rehab group and rejoined the rest of his teammates at training, which should finally result in an improved attack.

“(Corey Norman has) been out there with a few different halves throughout the pre-season. Now Foz’s hammy’s alright and we’re on the paddock there and playing – it’s just going to take a bit of time to gel,” he said.

The Eels host struggling Penrith at home on Sunday.