Liberal voters oppose coal mine subsidies

Malcolm Turnbull’s constituents and those of six of his senior ministers overwhelmingly oppose taxpayers subsidising the planned Adani coal mine in Queensland.


Polling conducted by ReachTEL for the left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute also finds more voters support a ban on new coal mines than would oppose one.

The government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility is considering whether to grant Indian company Adani a $900 million loan to build a rail line to its planned Carmichael coal mine.

Pollsters surveyed people in Wentworth (Mr Turnbull’s seat), Cook (Scott Morrison), Curtin (Julie Bishop), Dickson (Peter Dutton), Flinders (Greg Hunt), Kooyong (Josh Frydenberg) and Sturt (Christopher Pyne).

Results showed on average 62.5 per cent opposed any government loan for the rail link, with opposition strongest among voters in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s southern Sydney seat.

Fewer than one in four people were in favour of a loan, with support highest among voters in Mr Dutton’s Brisbane electorate, the only Queensland seat surveyed.

There were similar results on the question of whether taxpayers should be subsidising the Adani mine in any way.

Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said it made sense the Liberal Party base would oppose subsidising an industry as well established as coal mining.

“Despite a push by some conservatives for coal subsidy polices, these results – in key blue-ribbon Liberal seats – show strong opposition to that very idea,” he said on Monday.

“These results show that Malcolm Turnbull should be confident in staring down the pro-coal faction in his party room.”

Voters were also asked if they supported or opposed a moratorium on building coal mines, meaning existing mines could continue running but no new ones would be allowed.

More people thought a moratorium was a good idea than not, but the suggestions only got a majority of support among Mr Turnbull’s constituents and those in Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg’s inner-Melbourne seat.

But almost one in four people responded they didn’t know where they stood on the moratorium.

El Salvador teen sentenced to 30 years jail after baby dies at birth

Evelyn Hernandez gave birth in April last year in the makeshift bathroom of her home in the central Cuscatlan region.


She was 18 years old and eight months pregnant.

She said her son was stillborn but a court in the city of Cojutepeque convicted her on Wednesday of murdering him, abortion rights group ACDATEE said.

A spokeswoman for the group, Morena Herrera, said Hernandez was convicted “with no direct proof” and that the court failed to take into account key forensic evidence.

ACDATEE cited a pathologist’s report which it said indicated the baby had choked to death while still in the womb.

Prosecutors argued Hernandez was culpable for not having sought prenatal care, ACDATEE said.

From Dateline:

It said Hernandez had not known she was pregnant and gave birth on the toilet after feeling abdominal pains.

Hernandez got pregnant as the result of a rape which she did not report out of fear because her family had been threatened.

“The conviction is unjust and we are going to appeal,” Herrera told AFP.

“This case is evidence that the judicial system acts with prejudice.”

Abortion under any circumstances is illegal in El Salvador, where it is classed as aggravated homicide.

Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years. Campaigners say some have been jailed after suffering miscarriages.

The country’s abortion law made international headlines in 2013 when a sick woman was forbidden from aborting a fetus that did not have a head.

Under a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Salvadoran state eventually authorized that woman to undergo a Cesarean section. The baby died a few hours after the procedure.

Lawmakers presented a bill in the Salvadoran legislature in October last year proposing to decriminalize abortion. The bill has been blocked by conservative parties.

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Investigation into alleged killing by special forces in Afghanistan

A secret defence inquiry is examining the conduct of Australian special forces in Afghanistan and the alleged killing of at least two children by Australian troops, according to a special report by the ABC.


Australian special forces soldiers were reportedly moving through a remote area when they allegedly shot a young boy dead in Kandahar Province in 2012. 

The source the ABC spoke to alleges the killing was never reported up the official chain of command, with the boy’s body recovered by local villagers and retrieved by his family.

In a statement, an AFP spokesperson confirmed the matter had been referred to the ADF for investigation.

“On 2 September 2016 the Chief of Army Australia Defence Force (ADF) referred a matter to the AFP relating to an allegation of an unlawful killing by the ADF in Afghanistan in 2012,” the statement said.

“The AFP is undertaking an evaluation of the matter referred, and as such it would not be appropriate to comment further.”


Australia’s record in Afghanistan

In April 2006, Chief of Army Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell said the slew of disturbing stories about the conduct of Australia’s elite special forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere would be examined by an independent investigator.

He said a “range of unsubstantiated, third-person, hearsay stories” warranted “deeper consideration, but independently”.

In May 2016, the Defence department revealed that three soldiers were charged over the death of six Afghanis because they allegedly threw a grenade into a room they knew contained women and children.

A Defence ministerial submission, released under Freedom of Information, said the soldiers believed they were under insurgent fire but evidence indicated it was an Afghan national defending his home and family from attack in the middle of the night in February, 2009.

But charges of manslaughter against the three special forces personnel were dismissed on the grounds that soldiers had no legal duty of care to civilians during combat.

Defence has also denied Australian involvement in an incident in Oruzgan province in 2006 in which a taxi was mistakenly fired upon, killing an Afghan civilian man, blinding a woman and seriously injuring a girl.

In May 2013, then Defence Minister Stephen Smith rejected concerns raised by Sydney-based advocacy group the Public Interest Advocacy Centre over allegations that Australian forces in Afghanistan mistreated Afghan detainees in their custody.

The allegations were put forward by Afghan detainees captured by the Australian Defence Force and held at a United States military prison near Bagram air base.

0:00 Australian efforts in Afghanistan helping restructure military Share Australian efforts in Afghanistan helping restructure military

Meanwhile Australia has committed an extra 30 troops to Afghanistan, taking its deployment to 300 Australian Defence Force personnel.

The ADF’s presence in Afghanistan is due to expire in 2018, but Defence Minister Marise Payne says it is under constant review.

The Australian commitment to Afghanistan is known as Operation Highroad, which replaced combat operations in 2014.

Since Australian troops were first sent to Afghanistan in 2001, 42 troops have died.


Cordner wants Daley back for Origin 2018

NSW captain Boyd Cordner has pleaded for Laurie Daley to stay past this year’s State of Origin decider amid fears the Blues could be on the lookout for a new coach in 2018.


Daley’s contract expires at the end of this year’s series however there is no guarantee to remain at the helm should NSW lose a fourth attempt at the shield under his watch.

No Blues coach has survived more than three series defeats, and Daley has been non-committal on whether he would be seeking a new deal next year.

However ahead of Wednesday’s decider at Suncorp Stadium, where the Blues enter as favourites, Cordner went in to bat for the former Blues champion.

The Blues skipper said the Origin coaching gig was made for Daley, who also stands on the precipice of becoming the second NSW coach to claim more than one series triumph.

Legendary mentor Phil Gould has six series wins.

“I love Loz as a coach. I don’t think I’ve met a more passionate man who’s worn the blue jersey. I think it’s carbon-copied for him to have his job just with the emotion he shows,” Cordner said.

“He wears his heart on his sleeve. A hundred per cent I want him to stay.”

NSW under-16s and 18s coach Brad Fittler and current Blues assistant John Cartwright have been mentioned as possible candidates to take over should the job be vacated.

The future of selection adviser Peter Sterling, who signed a one-year deal last year, is also under a cloud after recently hinting his status would be tied to Daley’s decision.

Cordner, who was appointed captaincy from Paul Gallen on the eve of this year’s series, credited Daley for helping develop him into one of the NRL’s elite players.

Matthews second in Tour green jersey race

Michael Matthews’ great effort in the sprinters’ green jersey battle was overshadowed on a dramatic day when fellow Australian Richie Porte crashed out of the Tour de France.


Riding in the mountains with the world’s best climbers for a good part of the tour’s toughest stage, Matthews improved from third to second in the points classification after collecting the maximum 20 points for winning the intermediate sprint.

He closed to within 52 points of green jersey leader Marcel Kittel (212 points), the winner of three stages,and is 30 points clear another German star, Andre Greipel.

The versatile Matthews was part of a 38-rider breakaway group seven kilometres into the Sunday’s stage, maintaining his spot among the leaders by the 126.5km mark to win the 7.5km-sprint at Massignieu-de-Rives.

“Wow, what a day by all my team at (Sunweb). That was a team effort,” he tweeted.

The 26-year-old Matthews’ chances for a maiden green jersey title have been greatly boosted the absences of sprint heavyweights Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish.

Five-time green jersey winner Sagan was disqualified from the remainder of the Tour after he sent Cavendish crashing in the stage four sprint.

French star Arnaud Demare, who was in second place in the points competition, is also now out after missing the time cut off on stage nine.

BMC’s Porte, one of the pre-race favourites, crashed heavily at high-speed on the stage’s final descent on Mont du Chat, fracturing his right clavicle and pelvis.

Colombian Rigoberto Uran of Cannondale-Drapac won the stage, which claimed Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas to a crash injury.

Matthews’ Sunweb teammate Warren Barguil, the polka dot jersey wearer for leading climber came second behind Uran in a photo-finish on Sunday and later acknowledged the Australian’s efforts.

“Today was an amazing day for myself and the team. We had five guys in the break which was brilliant,” Barguil said.

“After Michael won the intermediate sprint, the guys went full for my chances on day success and that gave me the confidence that I needed to climb at my best.”

Govt sure of passing youth internships law

The government says it can persuade parliament to pass legislation backing a youth internship program that’s already started, despite staunch opposition from Labor and the Greens.


If the legislation doesn’t pass, the young jobseekers taking part in the PaTH program could lose up to $42 out of the $200 fortnightly dole top-up in tax.

“We are very confident of being able to take this through the Senate based on our record of getting things through the Senate,” Treasurer Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

The program, announced in the 2016/17 budget, seeks to encourage jobseekers under 25 to do four-week to 12-week internships by paying them $200 a fortnight on top of income support payments and giving the employer a $1000 upfront payment.

It began on April 1 despite the backing legislation yet to pass the Senate.

The legislation is needed to ensure the $200 payment, which comes on top of a young job seeker’s social security payments, is not taxed as income for work.

It will also mean anyone who drops out of the program for whatever reason can have their social security payments restored without having to make a new claim.

Employers say the PaTH program is a practical plan to help address youth unemployment.

Business Council chief Jennifer Westacott said the scheme would give young people practical work experience and the support and skills to stay in work.

But unions say it will undermine jobs.

“If employers can legally employ people on $3.22 an hour and the government pays, why would they hire a young person on the minimum wage?” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.

Labor spokesman Ed Husic said the 30,000 subsidised interns would be forced into a weak labour market already suffering from record high under-employment and record low wages growth.

Mr Morrison said Labor should put its stop sign away and help attempts to get young people into jobs.

“Whether it’s trying to get businesses growing, whether it’s trying to get young people into work they are constantly saying stop, stop, stop,” he said.

“That’s no way to grow an economy.”

Prove Brexit ‘no deal’ is an option: MPs

British Prime Minister Theresa May must prove that “no deal is better than a bad deal” by offering an economic assessment on the impact of leaving the European Union with no agreement, a parliamentary committee says.


Just days after May triggered the formal divorce procedure with the European Union, the committee made up of MPs, also called on the government to publish its contingency planning for failing to strike a deal after two years of talks.

May enters the unprecedented talks with an ambitious game plan, wanting “frictionless” trade and good co-operation with the bloc while gaining control over immigration and returning sovereignty – a wish list EU officials have baulked at.

But she has also said she is prepared to walk away from the talks without a deal rather than accepting a “bad” one, a term her government has so far declined to elaborate on despite fears among manufacturers over new trade barriers if Britain has to revert to World Trade Organization rules.

“Without an economic impact assessment of ‘no deal’ and without evidence that steps are being taken to mitigate the damaging effect of such an outcome, the government’s assertion that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ is unsubstantiated,” said Hilary Benn, chairman of the Committee on Exiting the EU.

“Parliament must be in an informed position to decide whether a proposed deal is, in fact, better or worse than no deal,” he added in a statement.

May has been reticent about what she hopes to achieve in the talks so as not to give her hand away. But government officials, MPs and analysts say privately that she believes she has some strong cards to play, while also hoping that EU officials will favour pragmatism over punishment.

Willett out to cause another Masters shock

US Masters champion Danny Willett is hoping to slip under the radar once again as he bids to retain his Augusta crown this weekend.


While American Dustin Johnson surged to the top of the world rankings and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama enjoyed a good run of form before recent struggles, Willett has experienced a quiet start to the year.

“We might be able to slip under the radar, which would be quite nice and hopefully let the result take its course,” the 29-year-old Briton told reporters.

“There’s obviously going to be a few commitments and stuff through the week but in terms of going under the radar, I think it will probably be very similar to last year, even as defending champion.”

Willett has not won a tournament since slipping on the Green Jacket 12 months ago a few weeks after winning the Dubai Desert Classic.

His best recent results were sixth at the Hong Kong Open in December and fifth in the Maybank Championship in February.

“The game is not far away,” the world No. 17 said.

“Our run of form obviously has been nowhere near what it was last year and nowhere near what some of the other guys are playing.”

Willett shot a bogey-free final-round 67 to win last year’s Masters by three shots, taking advantage of a spectacular meltdown by American Jordan Spieth who made a quadruple-bogey on the 12th hole.

Spieth took partial revenge at the Ryder Cup as the United States beat a European team including Willett but the pair have never discussed the Masters.

“Obviously, it wouldn’t be in my nature to bring it up,” Willett said.

“I’m pretty sure it was a very difficult time for him. He really is one of the classiest guys out there, especially at his age, it’s quite astounding in terms of how well he took it.”

Willett admitted he struggled to maintain his form last year as he coped with the extra demands of being a major champion.

“Toward the back end of the season the game wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” he said.

“Being tired means you can get frustrated a little bit easier and that leads you to hit more balls and practise harder and in actual fact all that does at times is make you more tired.”

Now fully refreshed, he cannot wait to return to the scene of his greatest triumph.

“I’m pretty sure that as I get even within the area of Augusta, there’s going to be a big Cheshire smile on my face,” Willett said.

“I’m going to be able to slip my shoes on in the champions locker room upstairs and to be able to go back to Augusta National and defend your first major is going to be something pretty special.”

Malcolm Turnbull hits back at Tony Abbott’s criticism of Senate deal

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has delivered a thinly-veiled insult to his predecessor, Tony Abbott, by reeling off a list of his government’s achievements since coming to office.


Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott criticised the way the Turnbull Government negotiated with the Senate last week to pass its company tax cuts package. 

Although Mr Abbott hasn’t looked at the specifics of deal with key crossbench senator Nick Xenophon, he said he didn’t approve of the horse-trading which took place last Friday.

“I do want to make this point, you should never agree to do something which is wrong to get something which is right,” the former prime minister told Sky News.

Asked whether he found it taxing to have a predecessor criticising the government at every opportunity, Malcolm Turnbull said people should “think about what we’ve been able to do since the election”.

Watch: Government strikes a deal to pass company tax cuts

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“We’re getting stuff through the Senate. We’re delivering, we’re governing, we’re proving that if you’re prepared to negotiate, you can get things done in the 45th Parliament,” Mr Turnbull said.

“So what we’re demonstrating is that we know how to govern, we know how to deliver, we’re delivering on our promises. That’s what the public want us to do, it’s what they’re entitled to expect, and we’re doing it for them.”

“We all want to be a part of club sensible.”

Mr Abbott also hit out at Malcolm Turnbull’s weekend speech to the party faithful, in which he said the Liberal Party should sit “squarely in the centre of Australian politics”.

“We all in a sense want to be in the sensible center, we all want to be a part of club sensible, who wouldn’t want to be there?” Mr Abbott said. 

“But you’ve got to have things that you’re fighting for.” 

Malcolm Turnbull said both double-dissolution bills are now law, and a raft of other bills are set to be delivered in this term of parliament.


‘Un-diagnosing’ Autism Spectrum Disorder

The number of Australian children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder may have skyrocketed but many will be “un-diagnosed” in adulthood.


Early diagnosis and programs are helping those with Asperger syndrome – now known as high functioning autism – deal with social deficits and other challenges.

“We are now getting people who become what we technically call sub-clinical,” autism guru Dr Tony Attwood told AAP.

This means they’ve reached a “level of expression” that doesn’t need specialist services or support.

“It is something that you can actually achieve,” added Dr Attwood, a Queensland-based clinical psychologist and world-leading expert on Asperger syndrome.

The proportion of adults diagnosed with ASD in childhood who go on to be sub-clinical is estimated to be 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

“It’s not that the ASD is cured. What it means is that certain skills have been learned and the person is much more able to function in society,” said Dr Attwood.

The number of Australians diagnosed with autism increased by 42 per cent between 2012 and 2015.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 164,000 Australians had an autism diagnosis in 2015.

But unfortunately too many girls still miss out on early intervention, Dr Attwood said.

“Girls are diagnosed later, often in the teenage years, and by the time they are diagnosed their length of time with intensive intervention programs is very limited.

“They’ve usually camouflaged their symptoms and social confusion until the wheels fall off at high school.”

Some evidence suggests ASD is about 4.5 times more common in boys than in girls.

UK professor Simon Baron-Cohen – cousin of actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen – argues autism is the expression of the “extreme male brain”.

But not everyone is convinced, including Dr Attwood.

He says the “true ratio” is 2:1 – two boys to one girl.

In primary school the ratio can be 5:1, but this is because girls are better at hiding ASD.

“It is more conspicuous in boys but girls are smarter and more creative with how they cope with it,” Dr Atwood said.

“But it means at a terrible cost for potential low self-esteem and depression.”

World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated on April 2 this week.

Dr Attwood – who has worked in the field for four decades – would like to see more follow-up studies done and says there is still a greater need for acceptance.

It’s also important, he says, to recognise the extreme difficulties teenagers with ASD face at high school where they are “forced every lunch time into intense social interaction with toxic teenagers”.

“The intensity of inclusion and engagement amongst teenagers is horrendous for those with Asperger’s,” Dr Attwood said.