Government announces SA, WA shipbuilding capacity upgrade

The government has set out the details of its ambitious shipbuilding agenda.

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Almost $90 billion is to be spent building 12 new submarines, nine frigates and dozens of patrol boats.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the objective is to make sure that every dollar spent on defence capability is spent in Australia.

“We believe that historically we have been too much of a customer and not enough of a supplier for our own defence capability needs. That is the big strategic objective. Now this is nation-building, it is unashamedly nationalistic.”

But the government’s own plan concedes finding the workers will be a challenge.

By 2026, demand for construction workers will peak at just over 5,000.

The government will try to get former shipbuilders, carmakers and oil and gas workers – including from interstate.

But minister for defence materiel, Christopher Pyne, says some roles will still need to be filled by skilled foreign workers.

“It’ll be a miniscule number of the 5,200-plus. But obviously we want them to transfer their intellectual property to our workforce. We can’t just learn that from reading a manual. We need them here. So the workforce will be overwhelmingly Australian.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten has attacked the plan.

He says the government should make a promise that no more South Australian shipbuilders will lose their jobs.

“Christopher Pyne said that he believed that 90 per cent of the submarine build would be done locally in Australia. Now there’s no Liberal backing up that number. And as late as this morning, Malcolm Turnbull has yet again failed the jobs test when he can’t even guarantee that there won’t be further job losses in the South Australian naval shipbuilding industry. We’ve already lost too many trained workers.”

The government says the only foreign workers will be highly educated specialists from the French company DCNS, which won the contract to build the new fleet of submarines.

“No, we’re not bringing foreign workers in to build these ships or submarines; we’ll be asking white-collar workers from DCNS to come and train aspects of our workforce in the design and building of Barracuda Shortfin submarines that are designed for Australian needs.”

But Independent South Australian Senator, Nick Xenophon, has criticised the state government’s lack of planning for a skilled workforce in South Australia.

“We have known since the end of 2013 that Holden was going to leave, that the manufacturing of motor vehicles in this country was basically going to come to an end. We have had over three years’ notice for that yet we are still talking about bringing in workers from overseas and interstate because we have failed, as a state, in terms of skills and building up that workforce. That is a real concern.”

The federal government is to establish a naval shipbuilding college in Adelaide to train new workers.

Work on the new patrol boats is due to begin next year.

 

White House denies Trump gave classified intel to Russian officials

During the meeting in the Oval Office, Mr Trump is reported to have given details about an IS threat related to the use of laptop computers in aircraft.

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The newspaper says the information the President relayed had been provided by a partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details had been withheld from allies and tightly restricted, even within the US government.

A national Security adviser to the President, HR McMaster, was at the meeting.

He’s confirmed the subject of threats to civil aviation was discussed, but says it was only in general terms.

“There’s nothing that the President takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The President and the Foreign Minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the President did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present – including the Secretary of State – remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has released a statement supporting General McMaster.

He says a number of subjects were discussed with the Russians, among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism.

Mr Tillerson says the nature of specific threats was discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.

But the journalist who broke the story, Greg Miller, says his story makes no mention of sources or methods being disclosed.

He says the US officials have not addressed whether Mr Trump disclosed information drawn from sensitive sources.

Greg Miller says the article alleges a specific IS plot was discussed, from which sources and methods may be determined.

“Nor do any of these White House officials who are denouncing this story nor have any of them offered any explanation why, if this was all so aboveboard and not problematic in any way, why did the National Security Council coming out of this meeting feel it was necessary to contact the CIA director and the director of the National Security Agency to give them a heads-up on what Trump had just told the Russians?”

Constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz says the allegations are extremely grave.

“This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president. Let’s not minimise it. Comey is in the waste-basket of history, everything else is off the table. This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president of the United States. Let’s not underestimate it.”

Mr Dershowitz has clarified that while the accusation is serious, it’s not criminal and it’s not impeachable.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy says the Washington Post report is deeply troubling.

“I don’t know whether the article is accurate or not. They’ve had a lot of very accurate articles but it would be almost inconceivable that any president would allow something of that nature out, anything that would disclose sources and method, those are things that we protect.”

 

Palmer compares court date to Nazi Germany

After saying justice in Australia “is a game”, Clive Palmer claimed privilege at least 84 times in court as he evaded questions about the collapse of Queensland Nickel.

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For the second week in a row, the former Fairfax MP turned up to the Federal Court in Brisbane clinging to a sick bag and complaining of pain.

This time he was comparing his forced appearance to something that “would only happen in Nazi Germany”.

He was examined by lawyers for special purpose liquidators about decisions made around company shares, his recollection of ongoing Supreme Court proceedings involving one of his firms, Mineralogy, and the appointment of associate Domenic Martino as controller to another of his companies, China First, to get back a $135 million debt.

China First claimed it was owed the funds by Queensland Nickel as part of a deal struck just days before Queensland Nickel went into voluntary administration.

The agreement committed the nickel company to buying $135 million of shares in the mine developer and if it couldn’t be paid, China First could go after Queensland Nickel’s assets.

Appearing rumpled in the witness box, Mr Palmer frequently told the court in hushed tones that he could not recall details being asked of him.

“I can’t respond to that … because of my health,” he said.

The mining magnate was last week ordered by a judge to appear in court to be questioned over the whereabouts of his jet-setting nephew Clive Mensink, despite claiming he was too sick and suffering from memory loss after taking the morphine-based drug, Targin, for pancreatitis.

Mr Palmer’s barrister, Andrew Boe, on Tuesday told the court his client was still sick and had ingested the painkiller within the past 24 hours.

At one point, standing with his belt undone, Mr Palmer reached down to pick the sick bag up off the floor.

Mr Mensink has failed to appear in court to answer liquidators’ questions about Queensland Nickel, which folded in early 2016 with about $300 million in debts and the loss of almost 800 jobs at its Yabulu nickel refinery near Townsville.

During the hearing, Mr Palmer was prompted by lawyers to invoke privilege, doing so at least 84 times, to protect himself from self-incrimination.

Lawyers for general purpose liquidators – FTI Consulting – also asked Mr Palmer about the structure of his corporate empire, his employees, financial statements and bank accounts, before the hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.

“We can try tomorrow all day, I’ll be fresher then, I’ll be more helpful,” Mr Palmer said.

When Mr Palmer arrived at court, a minder who refused to give his name read out a statement on his behalf, saying he was being compelled to give evidence despite his condition as payback for initiating a Senate inquiry into the Newman government while he was an MP.

“Surgery and intensive care, pain and duress, and currently on morphine, all confirmed by the court, regardless I’m dragged into the court today,” he said.

“This would only happen in Nazi Germany.

“It makes me feel ashamed to live in a land where justice is a game.”

Mr Palmer vocalised his annoyance again as he left the court.

“I don’t think it’s a good policy for people on narcotics to give evidence,” he said.

Consumers demand better online shipping

Jane Lu has leveraged social media to help expand her online women’s fashion business Showpo which now employs 38 people.

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It’s been operating for six years and Ms Lu says sales are growing.

“We’ve more than doubled in the last year, and we’re expecting over $30 million this year.”

Her customers are demanding unique and affordable fashion and she’s getting it to them quickly by offering next day delivery for metropolitan customers.

“Which i think is very important for millennials, which is a large part of our demographic.”

She’s also reintroducing three hour dispatches even if it requires a premium to be paid.

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PayPay Australia Managing Director, Libby Roy says not all businesses are offering timely delivery.

“More than 50 percent of Australian consumers are saying that Australian retailers are behind when it comes to shipping.”

However, it’s not just about speed – the price of shipping also plays a role.

PayPal’s report showed that while more than 40 per cent of customers have abandoned their online shopping carts because shipping took too long, 73 per cent didn’t go through with their purchase because shipping costs were too high.

“So yes, you do need to think about your economics, so what’s the minimum purchase price that you can afford free delivery,” says Ms Hay who adds that it’s a important to get right to stay ahead of new  more powerful entrants like Amazon.

“Undoubtedly they’re are going to increase competition, but competition is a great thing, and the thing to remember is that they’re not here yet.”

The user experience however starts at the website, and going mobile first is paramount.

Showpo’s Jane Lu says sales are 26 per cent higher on mobile which supports PayPal’s numbers which show 71 per cent of smartphone users are shopping with their mobile phone.

What’s at stake in Iran’s presidential election?

Iran’s presidential election on Friday is effectively a choice between moderate incumbent Hassan Rouhani and hardline jurist Ebrahim Raisi, with major implications for everything from civil rights to relations with Washington.

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Rouhani is still seen as the frontrunner, but he faces a tougher than expected challenge from Raisi, who has rallied religious traditionalists and working-class voters disillusioned with the stagnant economy.

The economy

This is the issue driving the campaign on all sides as the Islamic republic struggles with a 12.5-per cent unemployment rate and minimal growth outside the oil sector.

Rouhani won praise for taming inflation and easing sanctions through a nuclear deal with world powers, but his promises of massive foreign investment have not materialised, and Raisi has criticised his lack of support for the poor.

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“Rouhani stemmed the decline, but he over-did the austerity. Inflation was already falling. He failed to jumpstart the economy by spending more on development projects,” said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an economics professor at Virginia Tech in the US who blogs about the Iranian economy.

Raisi has pushed his charitable credentials as head of the powerful Imam Reza foundation and vowed to create jobs, though with a notable lack of detail on how.

The president says patience is needed for his plans to bear fruit, although it may be too late to win over struggling families.

Regime legitimacy

For Clement Therme of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the turnout will be the biggest issue in the election.

“The regime needs participation. What matters most is the turnout, not the result,” he said.

“It’s a difficult balance: if they control too much, people won’t bother voting. But they can also use this part of the system to express their dissatisfaction.”

With many disillusioned by the lack of improvements after past elections, this is a particular fear for the Islamic regime this year, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for a massive turnout.

Related readingNuclear deal

Because it had the tacit approval of the supreme leader, Raisi supports the 2015 deal with world powers which saw curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of sanctions.

“The nuclear issue is not decided by the president and the future of the deal will depend on the Trump administration which is trying to change Iran’s behaviour with the threat of force,” said Thermes.

But Raisi has attacked the Rouhani government for his “weak” stance during negotiations and for having failed to cash in on the deal.

“We should not show any weakness in the face of the enemy,” he said in a televised debate, raising the possibility that he could deepen already worsening tensions with Washington.

Social freedoms

Rouhani has put civil liberties front and centre, knowing that this was key to his 2013 victory.

He says his conservative opponents represent “violence and extremism” and that their era is over, but has struggled in the past four years to make headway against Iran’s conservative-dominated judiciary and security services.

Raisi has tried to present a relatively liberal image, emphasising that his wife is an independent and highly educated professional.

But his gender-segregated rallies are in stark contrast to the mixed, youthful and middle class crowds turning out for Rouhani, who has been endorsed by leading reformists and celebrities such as Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi.

Watch: Trump criticises Iran on nuclear deal 0:00 Share Foreign trade

The government says it needs $50 billion a year in foreign capital to get the economy moving, but investors and global banks remain nervous about remaining US sanctions and Iran’s shady financial system.

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader has called for a self-sufficient “resistance economy”, a point emphasised by Raisi.

But in a country heavily dependent on oil exports, total independence is not realistic.

“No one is taking the ‘resistance economy’ idea to the extreme of Venezuela-style efforts to control prices and markets. Everyone sees some room for trade,” said Salehi-Isfahani.

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