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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Cyber attack shuts down Aussie businesses

At least a dozen Australian businesses have been crippled by the malicious ransomware computer bug that has claimed more than 200,000 victims around the world.

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The federal government has confirmed 12 reported cases in Australia of the ‘WannaCry’ software.

Four private businesses in Darwin and Alice Springs have suffered “significant impact”, Northern Territory Police said, with some still prevented from operating.

The government wouldn’t reveal details of the other affected businesses.

Some experts believe the ransomware – which blocks access to data until a ransom is paid – has links to North Korea.

“The ransomware incident highlights the need for all businesses to ensure that their systems are up-to-date with the most current patches and they have back-up procedures in place,” Detective Sergeant Craig Windebank said.

“If your computer system has the most recent patches installed, you are safe from this incident.”

But a majority of Australian companies admit they’re not sure how to protect unorganised data from being stolen, research shows.

The research shows about half of Australian organisations suffered two or more security breaches in the past 12 months, costing an average of $1.8 million.

Almost two-thirds expect to be breached again this year.

The study surveyed 600 companies globally – including 50 local businesses – with at least 1000 employees.

It found 66 per cent of Australian firms weren’t sure how to manage and protect unstructured data – unorganised, text-heavy material – from potential theft.

Employees who don’t stick to security policies are proving a headache, as well as risks posed by vendors and contractors.

Only 26 per cent of respondents said they have the ability to provide a report of “who has access to what” within 24 hours – lower than the 33 per cent global average.

The research was commissioned by identity management company SailPoint.

Vic men tried to join Filipino jihadists

Six Australian men accused of plotting to become foreign fighters allegedly wanted to join a violent militant group in the southern Philippines that is notorious for kidnappings and killing hostages.

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Robert “Musa” Cerantonio, Paul Dacre, Shayden Thorne, Kadir Kaya, Murat Kaya and Antonio Granata are fighting allegations they planned to sail from Cape York to join Filipino militant group Abu Sayyaf last year.

On Tuesday all six faced a committal hearing that will determine whether they should stand trial charged with making preparations for incursions into foreign countries to engage in hostile activities.

Abu Sayyaf was founded in the early 1990s and was once linked to al-Qaeda, insurgency analyst Matthew Henman told the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court via video link from London.

But the group has since declared allegiance to IS and purportedly held training camps for “soldiers of the Caliphate” in the southern Philippines region of Mindanao.

Cerantonio, Dacre, Thorne, Granata and Kadir Kaya were arrested near Cairns on May 10, 2016 towing a seven-metre boat en route to Cape York.

Murat Kaya was arrested in Victoria and is accused of helping the others buy the boat that they were allegedly planning to use to leave Australia.

His brother, Kadir, tried to fly to Turkey from Melbourne several months before the alleged boat plot was foiled, the court heard on Tuesday.

In September 2015 Kadir was stopped at Melbourne airport after presenting his Turkish passport at an immigration checkpoint.

Border officials then discovered his Australian passport had been cancelled and Kadir was prevented from boarding his flight.

The hearing before Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg will resume on Wednesday.

Craig Lowndes stays with Triple Eight

Retirement plans have been put on hold by Craig Lowndes for at least another two years after the Supercars great re-signed with Holden heavyweights Triple Eight Race Engineering on Tuesday.

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The six-time Bathurst 1000 winner said he never considered walking away from the sport at season’s end and did not rule out extending his Triple Eight stay at the age of 45 when his new contract expires in 2019.

There was speculation the off contract Lowndes, 42, may be tempted to take a back seat and only contest the three enduro rounds as a part-time driver from next year.

The three-time Supercars champion won his last series title in 1999.

However, Lowndes said he was as motivated as ever in his 12th year with Triple Eight.

Remarkably Lowndes has finished inside the top four in the championship every year since linking with Triple Eight in 2005.

“I’ve been here a long time now and we’ve enjoyed a great amount of success together over the years,” Lowndes said.

“I’ve always said that if I’m still motivated and I’m still competitive, then I’ll keep going.

“I’m enjoying racing as much as I ever have, so it was a no-brainer for me to continue.”

Lowndes said his new contract may not be his last as a full-time driver.

“At the moment it’s just a matter of seeing what the end of 2019 looks like (when his new deal expires),” Lowndes told motorsport长沙桑拿按摩论坛, website.

“We’ll definitely analyse where I am personally and whether I still have the ambition and drive to compete after that.”

Lowndes was the first Supercars driver to record 100 race wins, back in 2015.

Overall he has a record 105 wins and 254 podium finishes from 610 races.

He is currently eighth in the 2017 drivers’ championship ahead of this weekend’s fifth round in Winton.

Triple Eight boss Roland Dane said he was always keen to re-sign Lowndes, starting talks after the first round in Adelaide.

He wanted to lock up Lowndes before negotiations began with his co-drivers, Supercars stars Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen, who are off contract next year.

“There was never a question mark for me over whether we wanted Craig to stay with the team and I’m pleased we’ve been able to confirm the extension relatively early in the season,” Dane said.

“We’ve achieved an awful lot during his time with Triple Eight and we aim to continue building on that into the future.”

Terminally ill mother asks for NSW euthanasia bill support

A terminally ill mother is calling for the public to support a bill to legalise euthanasia in NSW.

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Annie Gabrielides. who suffers from motor neurone disease, shared her story in state parliament as an exposure draft of the legislation was released on Tuesday.

The bill would give access to medically-assisted euthanasia to people over 25 years old who are expected to die within a year.

The draft laws have cross-party support and will be introduced to the New South Wales parliament in coming months.

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The bill includes safeguards, like a 48 hour cooling off period and the requirement for two medical professionals to sign off on the final decision.

Ms Gabrielides, who was a speech pathologist and a teacher for 30 years, was diagnosed in July 2016 and now can no longer speak and has lost control of her hands.

She’s launched an online petition calling for the public to support the bill.

“Ten months ago I only had a mild speech slur, now it’s all gone,” she said through an assistance device on her iPad.

“Every morning I wake up and wait to discover what else I have lost. Some days it’s something small, like being able to shampoo my own hair, pick my own rogue hairs, while other days it’s something big like steadiness on my feet, or having someone cut my food so that I can eat.”

Ms Gabrielides will soon be in wheelchair and won’t be able to move or eat. But what she fears most is suffering a horrible death.

“I want an option when I can’t move or eat or breathe,” she said.

One of those behind the cross-party bill, Nationals MP Trevor Khan says current laws don’t stop people from trying to end their lives.

“Is it fair and reasonable that a person has to choose to starve themselves to death to bring an end to their suffering?” he said.

“In my view that’s an appalling choice that’s presented to people now. What we want to do is, if they’re making that choice, to make their road out easier.”

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Catholic Bishop of Sydney’s Broken Bay diocese Peter Comensoli believes it’s a dangerous move and warns it could be a slippery slope.

“There’s all sorts of changes that will come about,” he said.

“The doctor-patient relationship changes, our attitude towards the vulnerable changes, the government and the medical profession get into the business of killing. All that changes with this legislation.”

Bishop Comensoli said the bill could undermine family relationships and change attitudes about helping people as they’re dying.

And he fears it would lead to Australia following countries such as Holland, Belgium and Canada, where euthanasia is legal.

“Belgium for instance now allows children as young as 12 to be euthanised,” he said.

“It is not because they are necessarily dying. In Holland there is no longer a requirement that someone be terminally ill. This is already happening.”

Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal in all Australian states and territories.

A bill legalising euthanasia was passed in the Northern Territory in 1995, but was overturned by the federal government two years later.

That’s unlikely to happen if the New South Wales bill passes because, unlike territories, the Commonwealth is rarely able to intervene in state laws.

Watch: Dateline – Allow Me To Die 0:00 Share

Thailand backs down on Facebook ban over royal posts

Thailand ferociously enforces a draconian lese majeste law which outlaws any criticism of the monarchy.

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Since ultra-royalist generals seized power three years ago more than 100 people have been charged, many for comments made online, and some people have been jailed for decades.

The authorities have redoubled efforts to purge the Thai web following the October ascension of the country’s new king Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Last week Thailand’s telecom regulator, the NBTC, said it would file a police complaint against Facebook’s Thailand office and shut down the hugely popular site if it did not remove more than 130 “illegal” posts by Tuesday.

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“Facebook is cooperating with Thailand,” Takorn Tantasith, secretary general of the NBTC told reporters after the 10am deadline passed.

Takorn said some 97 web pages deemed critical of the monarchy remained on the platform but authorities were seeking court orders to send Facebook demanding their removal.

Thai authorities last week previously said Facebook had already removed some 170 posts. 

The social network giant declined to comment on how many posts it had made unavailable in Thailand since the recent requests.

Under its published policies, Facebook says it will comply with a country’s request to remove content if it receives a valid court order.

Watch: How much power can the government have?: Sinpeng

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“When we receive such a request, we review it to determine if it puts us on notice of unlawful content,” the company told AFP. 

“If we determine that it does, then we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory and notify people who try to access it why it is restricted.”

According to its published data, Facebook made 50 posts unavailable to Thai users after requests from the government in 2016.

No items were restricted in 2015 and 35 items were removed in 2014, the year of the coup.

Vajiralongkorn, 64, became king following the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej who reigned for seven decades.

He has yet to attain his father’s widespread popularity. 

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At least seven people are known to have been charged with lese majeste since he took the throne.

One, human rights lawyer Prawet Prapanukul, is facing up to 150-years in prison after being charged with a record ten separate counts if lese majeste. 

Media inside Thailand must heavily self censor when reporting on the monarchy making it perilous to detail what content has angered the authorities.

Somsak Jeamteerasakul, an exiled Thai academic and monarchy critic, posted a letter from Facebook on his own account informing him that some of his posts were among those censored.

The posts included photographs and video footage taken of Vajiralongkorn in Germany where he spends much of the year.

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