Hizb ut-Tahrir video condoning family violence under fire

The federal minister for women Michaelia Cash has condemned a Facebook video by Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir which condones domestic violence and describes hitting wives as “a beautiful blessing”.

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The 30-minute video was posted to the Facebook page of the controversial Islamic political movement.

It shows two women Reem Allouche, a Sydney primary school teacher, and Indian-born scholar Atika Latifi involved in a discussion, interpreting verses from the Koran to explain issues such as gender differences, leadership roles, and domestic violence. 

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“The third measure which is permitted, I want to make this point very clear that he is permitted, not obliged here or encourage, but permitted to hit her,” Ms Latifi says in the video.

“It’s very evident that this is symbolic in nature and it’s not as what people have understood or what people would like to have understood. This is the reality of the third disciplinary option.” 

The video was shot during an all-women’s event in Sydney’s west. 

Senator Cash said the attitudes promoted in the footage “have no place in modern Australia”.

“Domestic violence is abuse – plain and simple,” she said, adding that on average one women is murdered every week by a partner or former partner.

Watch: Cash critical of Hizb ut-Tahrir online video

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Labor’s shadow minister for women, Tanya Plibersek, has also condemned the video.

“”I think it’s very important to say again and again that men and women are equal,” she said.

“There is circumstance in which the man in the relationship gets to call the shots, to control the relationship.

“I think it’s very worrying that people might interpret the video as justification for domestic violence when domestic violence is always wrong. It’s always a crime.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia’s media office has issued a statement on Facebook saying it understands “concern expressed from sections of our Muslim community” in relation to the video.

“We firmly believe that we, as a community, must not shy away from the clarification of Islamic injunctions, however controversial, let alone succumb to reinterpretations of Islam forced by liberal hounding,” the statement said.

“Nevertheless, there is a need to be sensitive to the environment in which we operate and the context in which we are speaking.

“When mud-slinging at Islam is the order of the day in an increasingly hostile West, more thought needs to be given to the question of purpose, worth and risk of sharing content online.

“We acknowledge our mistake in this respect in this instance. We would especially like to acknowledge in this regard sisters in our community involved in the domestic violence space and their advice on how things can be misconstrued on this topic and we thank them for their tremendous ongoing work.

“Domestic violence is an abomination that Islam rejects in the strongest terms.”

The statement also condemned the portrayal of Muslim women in the media.

Under Section 61 of the NSW Crimes Act  and similar legislation in all states says common assault is an offence in Australia, regardless of whether serious harm is done.

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

– with AAP

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Gay apology goes a long way in Tasmania

Human rights and community groups have welcomed an apology from Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman to people previously convicted under the state’s historic and now-defunct anti-gay laws.

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The Liberal leader on Thursday told parliament he supports legislative change to expunge convictions for acts once considered a criminal offence, including gay sex and cross-dressing.

In 1997, Tasmania was the last Australian jurisdiction to scrap anti-gay laws and Mr Hodgman said the time was right to move further forward.

“Laws criminalising consensual homosexual activity and cross-dressing were unfair and unjust,” the premier said.

“We acknowledge that Tasmanians suffered as a result of these laws, which were repealed 20 years ago, and we apologise to those directly affected in this way, to their families and loved ones.”

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The words were echoed by leaders of the Labor opposition and state Greens.

Human Rights Law Centre lawyer Lee Carnie said the apology and expungement bill follows similar moves in Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

“This apology will help repair the harm caused by these unjust laws and moving forward sends a clear message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people that they are valued members of the community,” she said.

Gay rights activist Rodney Croome congratulated Mr Hodgman on becoming the nation’s first Liberal leader to offer such an apology.

“It will help heal the damage inflicted by by our old laws, including blackmail, ostracism, ignominy, hate crimes and even sometimes suicide,” he said.

Up until 1997, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Tasmania were charged and convicted of offences ranging from sodomy and gross indecency to cross-dressing, with maximum penalties including up to 21 years in prison.

The subsequent life-long criminal record has affected job prospects, international travel and volunteering opportunities, the government noted.

“People should never have been charged or convicted … even if it was thought at the time it was the right thing to do, it was not,” Mr Hodgman said.

“We can’t change the past, nor can we undo that harm. We can apologise for it and we do so.”

Watch: Growing up gay and Arab in regional Australia

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Rio champ Chalmers learns harsh lesson

If anyone knows how Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers feels after learning a harsh lesson at the national swim titles in Brisbane, it’s the man who helped deliver it – Cameron McEvoy.

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Chalmers – just 18 – admitted to a poolside TV reporter he had found it difficult under the sudden spotlight after four-time champion McEvoy relegated him to silver in the 100m freestyle final on Wednesday night.

But McEvoy believed Chalmers would learn from his Brisbane experience and bounce back at July’s world titles in Budapest.

He would know.

McEvoy was the red hot 100m favourite at Rio but faded to sixth in the final as a then unheralded Chalmers surged to gold, prompting Australian coach Jacco Verhaeren to claim the dual Olympian had suffered “stage fright”.

A mentally stronger McEvoy emerged at this week’s national titles to fire an ominous warning to sprint rivals in Hungary.

He held out Chalmers’ trademark whirlwind finish to win in 47.91 seconds – the year’s fastest 100m time.

“From my experience it is a change going in as underdog and then having to race your next in the spotlight,” McEvoy said of Chalmers.

“It’s not something that is really instinctual to a human.

“It’s pretty hit and miss the first time you do it.

“But he is a quick learner and I am sure he would have soaked up as much experience he could.

“He might be perfectly fine for worlds.”

Asked if he was finally comfortable in the spotlight, McEvoy said: “I feel like I am.

“There was a pretty big build-up (for 100m) but I felt I held it together pretty well.

“Through the last 18 months I have learned a lot about how to approach things.”

McEvoy needed the newfound mental strength after his 200m freestyle final fizzer on Monday night.

The three-time defending champion was relegated to fifth, denying him an individual 200m berth at Budapest.

However, McEvoy regrouped to add a fourth straight national 100m title to his 50m freestyle crown sealed on the opening night in Brisbane.

“After the 200m I went home and thought about what I did in the 50m and how I had been feeling in the water,” McEvoy said.

“So it (200m finish) really didn’t make an impact on how I viewed the 100m.

“It’s a good lesson to kids watching – you can have a disastrous race and still turn around and come back and swim well.”

Turnbull slaps down super-for-housing push

Malcolm Turnbull is trying to shut down debate on allowing first home buyers to raid their superannuation for housing deposits ahead of a budget ‘razor gang’ meeting.

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The prime minister has previously described the proposal as a “thoroughly bad idea.

On Wednesday in India he dismissed this week’s debate, which has split coalition MPs, as going “round and round”.

“I’ve read all of the speculation. Standing here in Mumbai I won’t contribute to it, although I’ve expressed fairly strong views about it in the past,” Mr Turnbull told reporters.

Cabinet’s expenditure review committee is expected to examine a range of housing affordability measures on Thursday in Canberra after the prime minister returns.

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Cabinet minister Matt Canavan and former prime minister Tony Abbott have both backed the option of giving young home buyers access to their super.

But cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne says anyone seeking to “fiddle” with Australia’s superannuation system “are putting that at risk”.

“The is no evidence to suggest that if superannuation was able to be used for housing that would somehow bring house prices down,” Mr Pyne told ABC Radio on Thursday.

Acting Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has sidestepped the issue by pointing out that there is no housing affordability crisis in regional areas.

Labor and some crossbenchers have already labelled the superannuation idea “crazy”.

Prominent economist Chris Richardson said such a change would likely push housing prices up to one per cent higher.

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Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said either this “bad policy” will be chosen, or Treasurer Scott Morrison – who reportedly supports the idea – will be rolled.

“The Treasurer’s position just looks untenable from this position,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.

Labor supports limiting negative gearing, a policy change bluntly dismissed by the government.

Mr Bowen pointed to the latest statistics from the Australian Taxation Office to underline the case for reform.

They show the group of property investors who own at least five properties is growing at triple the rate of investors who own just one.

“Yet this government tells us that it remains the case that Australians need more support through the taxation system, through negative gearing to buy your fifth, sixth or seventh property than your first,” he said.

WATCH: Chris Richardson on China economic impact

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Australia needs to ‘keep its head down’ on North Korea: Bob Carr

Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australian politicians should not kid themselves that lecturing China over North Korea “does anyone any good”.

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Mr Carr told SBS News Australia instead needed to “keep its head down and to talk quietly to the United States and to China about what the options are”.

“China is concerned about North Korea, they don’t have to be told what a menace this mediaeval dictatorship is to the world and to China as its neighbour in particular,” he said.

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“Less lecturing of China and more engaging with China about what China recognises is a common problem.”

Mr Carr said Chinese nationalist media had recently been siding more with America and attacking North Korea, but he played down the influence China had over the rogue nation.

“We’d all like to think that there’s a magic button that China’s got to use, but it’s very difficult for the Chinese,” he said.

“The Chinese have got less influence over North Korea, even though it’s nominally an ally than they would have with any of the other 20 countries they call neighbours.

“China understands this is a rogue regime run by a murderous family according to mediaeval principles. They can’t view this regime with anything other but great suspicion and great irritation.”

Watch: Bob Carr on China’s influence over North Korea

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There are some calls for China to engineer an economic collapse in North Korea to bring the regime to its knees, but Mr Carr poured cold water on this idea.

“China could work hard at trying to bring about an economic collapse in North Korea, but that could take years,” he said.

“This is a very tough regime that has forced huge sacrifices out of its people in the past and is armed with nuclear weapons.”

Mr Carr said he found the Trump administration’s approach to China “encouraging” and said it was good for the world.

“They’ve got to share more with the Chinese and they achieve nothing by lecturing China on what China should do in respect to North Korea,” he said. 

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England skipper Morgan signs up for South African T20 tournament

Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced on Thursday that Morgan has signed up for the first two seasons of the tournament, along with two South African-born past and present England internationals, Kevin Pietersen and Jason Roy.

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A trio of leading West Indies limited overs players, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, will also feature, as well as ex-New Zealand batsman Brendon McCullum and Sri Lanka seamer Lasith Malinga.

The eight will be distributed among the as yet unnamed teams via a draft system similar to that in the Indian Premier League.Each team will have 17 players in their squad, with a maximum of four from outside of South Africa.

CSA are inviting interest from prospective team owners with the deadline for submissions April 28.

Overseas players are also able to register their desire to join the draft, with the competition set to go head-to-head with the troubled Bangladesh Premier League and Dec. 16 pencilled in for the final.

“We are thrilled with the responses we are receiving from prospective team owners. No doubt this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both bidder and city,” CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat said in a statement.

“While the level of private investment we expect will be new to South African sport, we are also very interested in the level of expertise that owners will bring to all levels of the game in South Africa.”

There are 11 prospective venues open to the eight competing teams, with the sought-after stadiums in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban to go to the highest bidders.

“The eventual location of these franchises will be up to the bidders and the cities who see the opportunities to generate brand value and economic activity through the league,” Lorgat said.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Alison Williams)

US, Russia agree on Syria probe

Striving to salvage ties amid a fierce dispute over Syria, the United States and Russia have agreed to work together on an international investigation of a Syrian gas attack last week that prompted retaliatory American missile strikes.

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After a day of discussions with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the former Cold War foes agreed a probe of events in northern Syria on April 4 was necessary.

More than 80 people were killed in what the US has described as a nerve gas attack that Assad’s forces undoubtedly carried out. Russia says rebels dispersed whatever chemical agent was found, which the Trump administration calls a disinformation campaign.

The news conference came after Russian President Vladimir Putin met the top American diplomat for almost two hours to see if they could rescue relations between the world’s mightiest military powers.

“There is a low level of trust between our two countries,” Tillerson said.

“The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.”

He said working groups would be established to improve US-Russian ties and identify problems.

Tillerson was greeted frostily in the Russian capital as Lavrov began their meeting Wednesday by demanding to know America’s “real intentions.”

“We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria,” Lavrov said.

“We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future.”

US President Donald Trump even criticised Putin on Wednesday, something he has largely left to top aides over the last several days.

“Frankly, Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person,” Trump said, referring to Assad. “I think it’s very bad for Russia. I think it’s very bad for mankind.”

Putin felt trust between the two countries had eroded recently.

“The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded,” Putin said.

Asylum seekers’ issues reflected in rising pro bono work

Lawyers in Australia are working for free more than ever before.

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The Fifth National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey shows pro bono legal work has increased by almost 10 per cent since 2014.

It shows lawyers did an average of almost 35 hours of pro bono work each in 2016.

One of the key factors driving the increase was a rise in demand from asylum seekers and refugees.

In 2016, immigration ranked third in the list of areas of law where the most pro bono work was done, moving up from 12th in 2014.

Sarah Dale is a principal solicitor at the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, (RACS) a community legal centre.

She says government cuts to community legal centres in 2014 have impacted the rise in demand for her centre’s services.

“Previously, before 2014, there was funded legal assistance for anyone who arrived in Australia by boat. And now that there is no longer that funding, we’re now seeing more and more people come to RACS needing that assistance to apply for protection because they’re unable to afford a private migration agent.”

Ms Dale says pro bono work has been crucial in meeting the increased demand.

“Given the massive cuts that we experienced, there is no way we could have met the need without pro bono support over the past couple of years. And it’s really reassuring, because we just see more and more pro bono work available. However, it’s important to note that, despite all this incredible pro bono support, we still need funding (for those) services.”

Australian Pro Bono Centre chief executive John Corker says pro bono work is a professional obligation for lawyers.

“It’s a great thing for the legal profession as a whole to have this important ethical value to give back to the community. There are very few other professions that do it to the same degree — or at all — to which lawyers do. So, yeah, it’s a positive thing.”

But despite over 370,000 hours of pro bono legal work being completed in 2016, Mr Corker says there is no substitute for government-funded legal aid.

“I think the important thing is, also, that there is a limited capacity to do that (pro bono work) as well. It’s not a substitute for adequately funding Legal Aid and community legal centres. And there are signs in this survey that, for some of the better performers and the longer-serving firms that have got advanced pro bono programs, they’re getting close to capacity.”

Federal funding cuts to community legal centres are scheduled for July this year.

Ms Dale says that means there will be more people competing for limited pro bono legal services.

In March, Labor and the Greens co-sponsored a Senate motion urging the Federal Government to continue the funding.

Opposition legal spokesman Mark Dreyfus told a media conference at Parliament House community legal centres are critical to the people most disadvantaged.

“Community legal centres serve the most disadvantaged people across Australia. They serve people who cannot afford to see a lawyer. They serve people who do not qualify for Legal Aid.”

Greens senator Nick McKim also sharply criticised the Government for the impending cuts to the community legal centres. (CLCs)

“Some of our most vulnerable people in the country are going to miss out on access to justice as a result of this Government’s cruel and callous cuts to CLCs.”

But Liberal senator James McGrath responded in parliament, maintaining the Government remains committed to community legal centres.

“The Government is committed to access to justice and supports the important work of the community legal-assistance sector. In a tight fiscal environment, the Government is providing $1.6 billion for legal- assistance services, including community legal centres. … Under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, services are directed to those who need it most. Funding for community legal centres is not a matter for the Commonwealth alone. Investment from the states and territories is also crucial.”

 

 

Turnbull boards train of Indian growth

It was an ordinary train ride, but it held extraordinary significance.

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The strength of the relationship between Australia and India was on display when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi rode three stops on the New Delhi metro.

While Turnbull is a noted public transport enthusiast, the train adventure was highly unusual for Modi, who is believed to have last riden the metro in 2015.

But the Indian leader knew of Turnbull’s passion and wanted to do something special, despite security concerns that led to bans on most media and other passengers.

Turnbull’s aim for his three-day visit to India this week was to deepen his personal relationship with Modi and country ties – and he got it in spades.

Apart from the nine-minute train ride, the two leaders spent 40 minutes in a private meeting without officials – three times longer than planned. There was another hour alone touring a temple, as well as a formal bilateral meeting and state banquet.

The key outcome of all this face time was a push from both leaders to reignite stalled trade talks – something they talked about while wandering barefoot around the Akshardham Temple.

Turnbull indicated before meeting Modi that Australia’s focus had shifted from a bilateral deal in favour of a 16-country partnership involving China, India and other Asian nations.

Now the leaders have asked their chief trade negotiators to draw up a list of each side’s requests and offers to consider.

It’s understood there are sticking points in agriculture and labour mobility.

However, the Indians are yet to set formal, clear positions in these areas, even though negotiations have gone on for several years.

Turnbull is confident that despite a long history of protectionism within Indian government ranks, the personal interest of the leaders will create the required urgency and focus.

“Because both sides have got to report back to their respective prime ministers, that’s what provides the momentum,” he told reporters in Mumbai on Wednesday.

“It concentrates the mind even in the most stately bureaucratic department.”

Nevertheless, Turnbull warned the outcome could be no deal or a scaled-down version.

While trade got come attention, back in Australia the focus was on another meeting the prime minister had with with energy billionaire Gautam Adani.

The reclusive businessman wanted to discuss his company’s plans for the massive Carmichael coal mine in Queensland – which already has government and environmental approvals – and its application for a $900 million taxpayer-funded concessional loan to build a railway as part of the project.

He also sought assurances from Mr Turnbull for the quick resolution of a native title issue raised by a Federal Court decision on an unrelated WA project.

Labor leader Bill Shorten, who was touring Queensland this, says while he wants Adani to succeed the project had to stand on its on merits.

“The Australian taxpayer should not be an ATM for Indian coal mining companies,” he said.

Turnbull shot back, saying Shorten “lacks commitment, conviction and character” on the issue.

The way the prime minister sees it, if Australia doesn’t sell its high quality, relatively clean coal to India, it will seek the mineral from other, and likely dirtier, sources.

Not only would that be a worse environmental outcome, it would damage a growing trade and economic relationship between the two countries.

And that’s one train Turnbull doesn’t want to get off.

China, Russia try to cool North Korea-US tension

As world leaders continue to talk carefully about any action on North Korea, United States president Donald Trump boasts of the military might he is mustering near the Korean Peninsula.

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“We are sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. And we have the best military people on earth.”

North Korea is also talking loudly, claiming it is ready to react to what it calls “any mode of war” the United States declares.

But US secretary of state Rex Tillerson is more circumspect in describing the display of power.

“(The USS) Carl Vinson strike group is routinely in the Pacific Ocean, it’s in the Pacific theatre, and its movements in the Pacific are made in a way that’s planned by the military planners. There is no particular objective in its current course. The Vincent sails up and down the Pacific routinely. And so I would not read anything into the Carl Vinson’s current locations.”

Mr Tillerson was speaking after a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

Mr Lavrov spoke of broad agreement between Russia and the United States on the need for a political solution to the North Korean crisis.

“As far as I understood, apart from some nuances, even some serious nuances, there is a common desire to resolve this problem through an entirely political, peaceful method and to achieve denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula through the talks.”

North Korea has angered world leaders with a series of recent missile launches and is thought to be developing a long-range missile capable of striking the US mainland.

After generating what he calls “good chemistry” with Chinese president Xi Jinping, Mr Trump says he is offering China the incentive of a good trade deal to help.

“We have a very big problem in North Korea. I really think that China’s going to try very hard and has already started. A lot of the (North Korean) coal boats have already been turned back. You saw that yesterday and today, they’ve been turned back. The vast amount of coal that comes out of North Korea going to China, they’ve turned back the boats. That’s a big step. And there are many other steps that I know about. So we’ll see what happens. It may be effective.”

And if it is not effective, Mr Trump is promising the United States will be.