Abbott at the heart of govt chaos: Shorten

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Tony Abbott is at the heart of the chaos and division in the Turnbull government and he’s not going away.


Reports suggest that the former prime minister will be electioneering in marginal seats on his own tour after being snubbed of a proper campaign role in what is likely to be a July 2 double dissolution election.

“The only way you don’t get Tony Abbott is by voting Labor because Mr Turnbull can’t stop Tony Abbott,” Mr Shorten told reporters after serving lunch with his wife Chloe at Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda on Sunday.

Mr Turnbull kept a relatively low profile on Sunday, other than attending Easter mass in his Sydney electorate of Wentworth with his wife Lucy.

Junior minister Angus Taylor has no problem with Mr Abbott making a contribution to the policy debate, as he has done for many years.

“He will carve out his own role as a backbencher which all backbenchers do in an election campaign,” Mr Taylor told Sky News.

But former Liberal leader John Hewson believes the prime minister should give him a job.

“He won’t go away, so I think you give him a role. Define the role very carefully and encourage him to be judged by his performance,” Dr Hewson told Sky News.

Dr Hewson also expressed surprise at the plaudits that Mr Turnbull is getting for his strategy to force a July 2 poll.

Rather than being a stroke of genius, he believes it is “quite high risk”.

Mr Turnbull is bringing parliament back on April 18 to have another crack at getting legislation to restore the construction watchdog through the Senate, and if this fails for a second time, as seems likely, it will be a trigger for a July 2 poll.

But Dr Hewson says if the Senate unexpectedly supports the re-introduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, it would delay an election to September or October.

“In the interim he has got to deal with issues like (Arthur) Sinodinos, Abbott, backbench issues and a budget that has been neutered as a pre-election budget rather than a reform budget,” Dr Hewson told Sky News on Sunday.

The government needs six of the eight cross bench senators to back the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation, with Labor and the Greens opposing the bill.

Four have said they will support it, while the other four won’t say.

Former Labor minister Craig Emerson said it is strange that the prime minister has left the timing of the next election in the hands of four senators “who hate his guts”.

“That’s a master stroke, apparently,” Dr Emerson said.

Belgium charges suspect, arrest in Italy

Belgian prosecutors have charged three men with terrorist offences over the Brussels bombings and Italian police have arrested an Algerian suspected of having produced false documents for militants connected to the attacks.


With the investigation now spanning several countries, and increasing signs of links to the Paris attacks in November, Belgian authorities have called off a planned “march against fear” in the jittery capital on Sunday to relieve pressure on the police.

The suicide bomb attacks targeting Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train on Tuesday killed 31 people, including three of the attackers, and injured hundreds more. Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

After a series of raids and arrests in Belgium and Germany since the attacks, Algerian Djamal Eddine Ouali, 40, was arrested by Italy’s DIGOS anti-terrorism police in southern Italy, Italian media said on Saturday.

The Sky TG 24 television and other media reports said he was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by Belgium for producing and procuring false documents to be used in illegal immigration.

His name was found in documents in a raid in an apartment near Brussels last October, including some documents with photos of some of the militants involved in the attacks in Paris and in Brussels and the aliases they used, the reports said.

Of the three men charged on Saturday, Belgian prosecutors named one as Faycal C. Belgian media identified him as Faycal Cheffou and said he was “the man in the hat”, as he has become known, in last Tuesday’s airport CCTV footage that showed three men pushing baggage trolleys bearing luggage.

The two others in the picture are believed to have blown themselves up.

Cheffou was charged with taking part in the activities of a terrorist group, and actual and attempted terrorist murder.

The other two charged on Saturday, Aboubakar A. and Rabah N., were accused of terrorist activities and membership of a terrorist group.

Rabah N. was wanted in connection with a related raid in France this week that authorities say foiled an attack plot.

Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur told Le Soir newspaper that Cheffou, who said he was a freelance journalist, was “dangerous” and that he had been detained a number of times at a park where he sought to encourage asylum seekers camped there to turn to militancy.

The authorities also said that a man arrested on Friday after being shot in the leg at a tram stop in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek was being held for a further 24 hours.

He was identified as Abderamane A. and was one of three people arrested on Friday.

That operation was linked to the arrest in Paris on Thursday of an Islamist convicted in Belgium last year and suspected of plotting a new attack, Belgian prosecutors said.

German politicians said Europe urgently needed to improve the way its security agencies share information amid increasing signs the same network was behind the attacks in Brussels and those in Paris in November that killed 130 people.

Organisers called off Sunday’s Belgian solidarity march after officials including the city’s mayor urged people to stay away in order to spare the over-taxed police force.

“The security of our citizens is an absolute priority,” said march organiser Emmanuel Foulon.

Officials said 24 victims from nine different nationalities had been identified so far from the attacks in Brussels, which is the headquarters of the European Union and NATO. Four people remain unidentified.

Lima to have surgery on fractured hand

Prop Jeff Lima is facing a stint on the sideline after fracturing his hand in Canberra’s last-minute 24-20 NRL loss to Gold Coast.


Scans on Saturday night revealed Lima suffered damage to the second metarcarpal in his left hand and will have surgery this week.

A timeline on his return will be clearer after the operation.

It wasn’t all bad news for the club, with winger Edrick Lee cleared post-match of any serious thumb injury.

He is likely to be available for next Monday’s clash with Canterbury at Belmore.

Lima joins Blake Austin (knee), Aidan Sezer (eye socket) and Adam Clydesdale (shoulder) in the Raiders’ casualty ward after just four rounds.

“It doesn’t look real flash for us,” coach Ricky Stuart said.

Austin and Sezer are unlikely to be rushed in for the match against the Bulldogs, but could be available for their battle with Parramatta at Pirtek Stadium the following Saturday. Joey Leilua returns from suspension this week.

Even without their star halves the Raiders had looked set to continue their unbeaten start to the season against the Titans and move to the top of the ladder.

They led 20-6 with 15 minutes left at GIO Stadium, but lost it all with a string of errors, a costly penalty to Frank-Paul Nuuausala for his hit on Titan Ryan James, and a pair of “soft” tries.

“If you’re going to do something in this comp you can’t afford those types of tries,” Stuart said.

The Titans, who allegedly briefly fielded an extra man in the second half, sealed the win via a controversial try in the 79th minute to John Olive.

Sanders wins Alaska, Washington, Hawaii

Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders has easily won nominating contests in Alaska, Washington and Hawaii, chipping away at front-runner Hillary Clinton’s commanding lead in the race.


Sanders still faces a steep climb to overtake Clinton but the big victories in the West on Saturday generated more momentum for his upstart campaign and could stave off calls from Democratic leaders that he should wrap up his bid in the name of party unity.

Sanders appeared headed to victory margins of more than 50 percentage points in both Alaska and Washington, and led by about 40 points in Hawaii with some 90 per cent of the results tallied there.

“We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton’s lead and … we have a path to victory,” Sanders told cheering, chanting supporters in Madison, Wisconsin.

“It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum.”

Clinton, the former secretary of state, has increasingly turned her attention toward a potential November 8 general election showdown against Republican front-runner Donald Trump, claiming she is on the path to wrapping up the nomination.

Heading into Saturday, she led Sanders by about 300 pledged delegates in the race for the 2382 delegates needed to be nominated at the party’s July convention in Philadelphia. Adding in the support of super-delegates – party leaders who are free to back any candidate – she has 1690 delegates to 946 for Sanders.

Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, needs to win up to two-thirds of the remaining delegates to catch Clinton, who will keep piling up delegates even when she loses under a Democratic Party system that awards them proportionally in all states.

“These wins will help him raise more funds for the next few weeks but I don’t think it changes the overall equation,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley, a Clinton supporter. “Hillary Clinton has too big a lead.”

But Sanders has repeatedly said he is staying in the race until the convention, pointing to big crowds at his rallies and high turnout among young and first-time voters as proof of his viability. After raising $140 million, he has the money to fight on as long as he wants.

He has energised the party’s liberal base and young voters with his calls to rein in Wall Street and fight income inequality, a message that resonated in liberal Washington and other Western states. Sanders won in Utah and Idaho this week.

“Don’t let anybody tell you we can’t win the nomination or the general election,” Sanders told supporters in Wisconsin, which holds the next contest on April 5.

“We are going to do both.”

After Wisconsin, the Democratic race moves to contests in New York on April 19 and a bloc of five states in the Northeast, led by Pennsylvania, on April 26.

There were no contests on Saturday in the Republican race featuring Trump and rivals US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich.