Terror parole and bail laws toughened up ahead of COAG meeting

There will be a strong presumption against granting bail or parole to anyone connected with terror offences under a deal struck between commonwealth and state governments.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull brokered a deal on the hardline reforms ahead of a meeting with state and territory premiers on Friday, where national security is set to dominate talks.

“We must be faster, smarter, more agile, more responsive than those who seek to do us harm,” he told reporters in Hobart.

“If you have someone who has terrorist sympathies and who has a propensity to violence, every day they are not on the street is a good day.”

The national crackdown will extend to anyone deemed to support or have links to violent extremism or terrorism.

The agreement falls short of a proposal by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to have domestic spy agency ASIO and federal police to help state parole boards decide on releasing criminals who pose a terror threat.

Mr Turnbull said federal police and intelligence officers already fed information on convicted terrorists through to parole boards.

Related readingTake ideology out of climate, energy: PM

Malcolm Turnbull wants ideology and politics taken out of national energy policy and replaced with a strategy grounded in economics and engineering.

The focus had to be on a system that delivered affordable, reliable and secure electricity while meeting Australia’s carbon emissions reduction targets, the prime minister said.

The Council of Australian Governments will be presented with Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s final report on the national energy system.

It’s understood he will recommend a “clean energy target” – rather than an emissions intensity scheme or a carbon price – to help ease pressure on power prices while cutting carbon emissions and ensuring the grid is reliable.

While Dr Finkel is not expected to recommend a specific figure for the target, he will argue the proposal would be enough to meet Australia’s Paris climate agreement commitments.

“The important objective we have is to take the ideology and politics out of this issue,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.

“As I have said for a long time now, my approach to energy policy … is grounded in economics and engineering, not in ideology, not in politics, not in partisanship.”

Host premier Will Hodgman will be pushing for his state to be the “nation’s renewable energy battery”, with a focus on wind farms.

Victorian leader Daniel Andrews says business and consumers are sick and tired of governments simply arguing endlessly about energy policy.

“Let’s get on and put them first,” he told reporters.

Related reading

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will underline her state’s commitment to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 but will have a state task force examine and roll out the Finkel report recommendations.

She hopes the Finkel review brings an end to the climate wars in Australia and leaders reach common ground, noting Queensland was doing the heavy lifting by opening up its gas market.

“So every other state also needs to lift its game,” she said.

Comey accuses White House of trying to stifle Russia probe

Lies, loyalty and leaks.

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James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee has touched on those subjects and more during almost three hours of questioning.

The former head of the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation was fired soon after launching an investigation into the former national security adviser’s links with Russia.

He says he thinks that probe into General Michael Flynn probably helped seal his fate.

“There’s no doubt that … It’s a fair judgment – it’s my judgment – that I was fired because of the Russia investigation, I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavour was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal, and not just because it involves me. The nature of the FBI and the nature of its work requires that it not be the subject of political consideration. And on top of that, you have the Russia investigation itself is vital, because of the threat.”

Speculation over ties between Russia and the Trump administration has persisted since claims of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign first surfaced.

Mr Comey says he and the entire intelligence community believe Russia did intervene in the poll.

He says suggestions he lost his position for any other reason are “lies, plain and simple.”

The former public servant also admitted leaking details of private conversations with the President in an effort to prompt the appointment of a special counsel to lead the investigation.

Speaking after the testimony, President Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, says the revelation destroys Mr Comey’s credibility.

“Of course, the Office of the President is entitled to expect loyalty from those who are serving the administration. And from before this president took office to this day, it is overwhelmingly clear that there have been, and continue to be, those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications. Mr Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.”

Mr Comey has avoided accusing President Trump of trying to obstruct justice, a potentially impeachable offence.

But he confessed his fears Mr Trump might lie about their meetings prompted him to keep records of them.

He says his apprehension was due to the sensitive subject matter as well as the then newly elected president himself.

At the same time Mr Comey was speaking, Donald Trump was giving his own speech at a conference of evangelical supporters.

He has promised he will keep fighting.

“And, as you know, we’re under siege. You understand that. But we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever. You watch. You fought hard for me, and now I’m fighting hard for all of you. I have one goal as president, to fight for the American people and to fight for America and America first. We are winners, and we are going to fight and win and have an unbelievable future, unbelievable future, and it’s going to be together.”

The testimony was a highly anticipated event, with many restaurants and bars holding special viewing parties for the public.

 

What did we learn from Comey’s testimony before Congress?

The key issue before the Senate Intelligence Committee was whether Trump sought to obstruct the investigation in nine conversations with Comey this year, leading up to his dismissal of the FBI chief on May 9.

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Here are the key points of what Comey had to say in his first public appearance since his ouster:

‘Direction,’ but no order to end probe 

Asked if Trump ever demanded the Russia investigation be shut down, Comey flatly replied “No”. 

But he said that Trump’s request at a February 14 Oval Office meeting for him to ease the probe of former national security advisor Michael Flynn sounded like an order.   

Trump said, Comey recalled, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy.” 

“I took it as a direction. He’s the president of the United States, with me alone, saying ‘I hope this.’… I took it as this is what he wants me to do.”

“I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in.”

Trump says ‘we’ll fight on’

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Related readingObstruction of justice? 

Comey said it was not up to him but instead the independent special counsel in the Russian probe, Robert Mueller, to decide whether Trump broke a law.

“I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning.”

At the same time, he strongly suggested obstruction. 

“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” he told senators. “I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal.”

White House ‘lied’ over Comey firing 

Comey recalled that Trump and the White House gave shifting explanations for why he was dismissed, first saying it was over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe last year, then saying it was the Russia investigation, and finally declaring Comey was a poor leader disliked by the FBI staff.

“The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the work force had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple.”

Comey ‘stunned’ by Trump conversation 

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Related readingMemos on Trump meetings 

Comey said his distrust of Trump prompted him to take meticulous notes immediately after each of their nine discussions this year.

“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document,” he said of one such occasion.

He was later surprised when Trump suggested he had taped the conversations.

“I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

Comey’s leaks 

Under attack by Trump, Comey wanted to get his side of the story out. So he leaked his memorandums on the Trump discussions to the New York Times.

“I didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons,” he said, instead asking a friendly law professor to share his written recollection of those conversations with a reporter.

“I asked him to, because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Trump disinterested in Russia probe 

Comey said there was no doubt, in his mind, about the Russian government’s covert attempt to interfere in last year’s presidential election. But Trump showed no interest.

“I don’t remember any conversations with the president about the Russian election interference,” he said.

“We’re talking about a foreign government that using technical intrusion, lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal.”

Related readingA missed date 

Comey said Trump himself called him to a dinner on January 27, during which he asked him for a pledge of loyalty. 

“He said, how about 6:30? I said whatever works for you, sir,” Comey recalled.

“Then I hung up and called my wife and broke a date with her. I was supposed to take her out to dinner.”

“That’s one of the all-time great excuses for breaking it,” quipped one of the senators at the hearing.

Trump lawyer disputes Comey testimony

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Tyson Frizell to face fired-up Bulldogs

Tyson Frizell will take his place in the St George Illawarra line-up against Canterbury on Monday after recovering from a rib injury.

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The NSW Origin lock completed his second limited-contact training run with the Dragons on Friday and finished the session without issue.

The news comes just six days after he was taken to hospital during the Dragons’ 16-12 win over the Wests Tigers, with fears of a rib fracture.

Scans on Monday cleared him of any serious injury, but Dragons medical staff said he would still be monitored during the week before a call was made on his fitness closer to game day.

However it’s now understood the 25-year-old will be a certain starter at ANZ Stadium against a fired-up Bulldogs pack.

“We’re going to need him,” Dragons prop Russell Packer said.

“He is a world-class player and we need him healthy if that’s the case.”

The Dragons are wary of a motivated Bulldogs side desperate to bounce back from last Sunday’s embarrassing 38-0 defeat to Penrith.

The last time Canterbury were beaten to nil – against Manly in round four – they won their next three straight to quell questions over coach Des Hasler’s future.

Questions have been raised about the team’s attacking structure, while captain James Graham has had to defend the mood in the club after concerns were raised by former players in the media.

But Packer said the Dragons also had their own point to prove following Saturday’s lacklustre win over the Tigers.

The Saints completed at 67 per cent and missed 33 tackles in the win – their worst figures in each category for this season.

“We’ve got a bit of a motivating factor ourselves,” Packer said.

“We didn’t particularly put our best performance in against the Wests Tigers.

“As a playing group we weren’t happy that we didn’t meet the standards that we’ve set in the previous 11 games prior to that.”

UK Election 2017: May ahead but set to lose majority, exit poll shows

The results of the UK General Election 2017 are filtering in as analysts predict a hung parliament.

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London-based analysts from Japanese bank Nomura estimates Ms May’s Conservatives are on track to win 332 seats based on exit polls and seats declared so far. But Sky News predicts they will gain between 308 and 328 seats.

The BBC forecasts the Conservatives to win 318 seats and Labour 267.

A party needs 326 seats to form a majority in the 650-seat parliament.

Britain’s Opposition Labour Party is leading with 247 seats and the Conservative Party has 229. The Scottish National Party has 33 seats, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Liberal Democrats have 10 each.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn told supporters on election night Ms May had lost her mandate. 

“This election was called in order for the prime minister to gain a large majority in order for her to assert her authority,” he said in London.

“If there is a message from tonight’s results, it’s this: the Prime Minister called this election because she wanted a mandate,” Corbyn said. “Well the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence.”

“I would have thought that’s enough to go, and make way for a government that will be truly representative of all of the people of this country.”

Ms May says she knows the country needs a period of stability and whatever the results, the Conservatives will fulfill its duty to provide it.

UK Gen Election- @campbellclaret says of @theresa_may “her hand is now severly weakened. Anything could happen.” #hungparliment

— Bill Neely (@BillNeelyNBC) June 9, 2017

The election comes at a pivotal time in British history as it negotiates a complicated exit from the European Union, the first country to leave the bloc.

Former finance minister George Osborne, who Ms May ousted from her Cabinet, told ITV that Ms May will face a “huge post-mortem” for calling the snap general election in April. “People will start to ask questions… about the future of the direction of the Conservative Party,” he said.

UK Election: What’s at stake

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The first exit poll showed the Conservatives were set to win 314 seats in the UK General Election, falling short of a majority in the 650-seat parliament which would leave UK with a hung parliament.

The Labour Party is predicted to win 266 seats, the Scottish National Party 34 seats, down significantly from 54, and the Liberal Democrat Party to win 14 seats.

An election model from Japanese bank Nomura, however, has projected the Conservatives to win 338 seats, which would give them a majority.

London-based analysts made the prediction based on the exit poll results and the first 15 seats to declare.

There are 76 seats that are still too close to call, a BBC analysis reports. 

A party must secure 326 seats to command a majority. If it doesn’t, there is a “hung parliament” and the party with the most seats attempts to form a majority.

Former Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, says he doesn’t believe the Liberal Democrats would support a Conservative administration if it fell short of a majority while Jeffrey Donaldson of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) says he would negotiate with it.

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Paul Hollingsworth from economic research consultancy Capital Economics says if the exit poll is correct, the economy looks set to “face a period of uncertainty about the outlook for policy, Brexit and the possibility of another election”.

Former UK finance minister George Osborne says a hung parliament would be “completely catastrophic for the Conservatives”.

“It’s difficult to see, if these numbers were right, how they would put together the coalition to remain in office. But equally it’s quite difficult looking at those numbers to see how Labour could put together a coalition so it’s on a real knife edge,” he said.

Financial analyst Jordan Rochester says: “This is the hung parliament territory, it’s also what we had for the last election pretty much.

“But then the real numbers on the night came up with a majority, so it’s not over yet, folks, but we possibly have the Labour + SNP + Lib Dem Coalition possibility in play here.”

Exit poll projects Conservatives 12 seats short of a majority苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/jpy6wse1Rp#bbcelection #GE2017 pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/wyWlNvnBOG

— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) June 8, 2017

The polls were close to the actual result in 2005 and 2015, but it could be wrong. In 2015 it suggested the Tories would fall short of a majority at 316 but the final vote put them at 330. 

Figures from both leading parties are treating the exit poll with caution.

“We do need to see some actual results before we can interpret this one way or the other,” said Defence Minister Michael Fallon.

Labour’s spokesman on finance John McDonnell says, “We have to have some scepticism about all polls at the moment.

“Let’s see some results before we come to some conclusions,” he said.

The final poll from Ipsos puts May and her Conservative Party at 44 per cent, Labour at 36 per cent, Liberal Democrats at 7 per cent and the UK Independence Party at 4 per cent.

Polling experts have issued a range of results with one shock model even predicting May could lose her working majority of 17 in the 650-seat House of Commons.

A final poll by YouGov on Wednesday showed Conservatives seven points ahead of Labour, while ICM gave May’s party a 12-point lead.

RELATEDPound tumbles

The British pound fell sharply Thursday after an exit poll suggested Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives could lose their majority after losing seats in the general elections.

The British currency was trading at $1.2751, down 1.5 percent from the day-before level. 

-With AFP and Reuters