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Australian court disqualifies Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce over citizenship

Australia's top court has ruled that the deputy prime minister is disqualified from his seat in parliament because he held dual citizenship when elected. As a result, the ruling coalition will lose its majority. Australia's High Court on Friday ruled that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is ineligible to sit in parliament due to dual citizenship. The decision deals a blow to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Liberal-National coalition, which has a one-seat majority in the lower house. Joyce became the latest of a handful of lawmakers and government officials in Australia to lose their posts over citizenship-related controversies. The loss of the seat will force Turnbull to reach out to one of three independent lawmakers to maintain a ruling majority. The court ordered a by-election for Joyce's seat. He will be able to contend in the by-election. Read more: Australian parliament rocked by resignations over citizenship Senator seats to stay in the party Australia's constitution states that members of parliament cannot be "a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power." The court also ruled on the status of six other lawmakers in the senate. Four of them were also disqualified while two others were allowed to keep their seats. Unlike in the house, the ineligible senators' seats will be given to another member of their parties, leaving balance of power in the senate unchanged. The lawmakers recognized that they were dual nationals at the time of the election. The government argued that five of the lawmakers should still be eligible, including Joyce, because they were unaware of dual citizenship at the time of the election. Read more: Australian minister Matt Canavan steps down after his mother registered him as an Italian Joyce renounces New Zealand citizenship Joyce was born in Australia, but had New Zealand citizenship through his father. He renounced it after last year's election. He said he was unaware of his dual nationality before the election. The dual citizenship drama started in July when a lawyer tried to unseat an independent senator. The senator had already renounced his New Zealand citizenship before the election, but the case led to politicians and the media accusing other lawmakers of violating the constitution.

Australia’s top court has ruled that the deputy prime minister is disqualified from his seat in parliament because he held dual citizenship when elected. As a result, the ruling coalition will lose its majority. Australia’s High Court on Friday ruled that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is ineligible to sit in parliament due to dual citizenship. The decision deals a ... Read More »

Australian military tolerated child sex abuse, inquiry finds

Senior military staff tolerated initiation rites - including physical and sexual abuse - among junior recruits, a royal commission inquiry has said. Those who reported abuse were told it was a "rite of passage." The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday published its findings that Australia's military had enabled sexual abuse of teens for decades. The inquiry investigated reports of abuse that took place at two former Australian military training bases in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Survivors who testified said they were 15 or 16 years old at the navy and army bases when the abuse took place. Teens were subjected to practices that included a junior recruit being held down while boot polish was forcibly smeared on his genital or anal area. Read more: German soldiers sue over dismissal for 'sadistic sexual' practices and hazing Others testified that they were forced to perform sexual acts on other recruits or senior staff members. Junior navy recruits testified that "they made, or attempted to make, reports about incidents of abuse to staff and that they were not believed." Senior staff also told them that the abuse was "a rite of passage" or they did not take any action on the reports. Sexual grooming of cadets The Australian Defense Force's (ADF) cadet program, which admits children as young as 13, was also investigated. A total of 154 incidents of abuse were recorded at the cadet program since 2001, the report said. Read more: Female Bundeswehr soldiers abused and forced to pole-dance The ADF cadet training manuals falsely stated that the age of consent was 14, the report said. They noted that it is actually over 16 in Australia, depending on the jurisdiction. The false information increased the risk of child sex abuse, the inquiry found. Survivor testimony also showed that both boy and girl cadets were groomed by much older instructors and sexually abused. The Royal Commission on child sexual abuse has held hearings for more than three years into abuse at churches, schools and government agencies. The commission is expected to deliver its final list of recommendations to the government in December.

Senior military staff tolerated initiation rites – including physical and sexual abuse – among junior recruits, a royal commission inquiry has said. Those who reported abuse were told it was a “rite of passage.” The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday published its findings that Australia’s military had enabled sexual abuse of teens for decades. ... Read More »

Australian minister Matt Canavan steps down after his mother registered him as an Italian

Australia's ruling coalition has egg on its face after one of its own was caught in a dual nationality scandal. Matt Canavan's mother secretly signed him up for Italian citizenship, making him ineligible. Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan stepped down on Tuesday after his mother revealed that he might also hold Italian citizenship. It was an embarrassing revelation for the ruling coalition, who had sunk the boot into the Greens Party when their two deputies were forced to step down about a week ago for inadvertently holding foreign citizenship. Australian law prohibits lawmakers from holding citizenship of a "foreign power" including fellow Commonwealth states, even on a dual-nationality basis. The rule is seen by many as arcane considering that it precludes a quarter of the nation from joining parliament. Greens Senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters resigned in quick succession after the bombshell announcements that one held New Zealand citizenship and the other Canadian citizenship. Read more: Australian Parliament rocked by twin resignations over dual citizenship Egg on Turnbull's face At the time Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined the pack of conservative frontbenchers savaging Australia's third-largest party, with Turnbull calling it "incredible sloppiness." Senator Barnaby Joyce, who used to be Canavan's boss, said after the Greens' resignations that "everybody should check when they become a member of Parliament. That's section 44 of the constitution. People know what it's about. They should check," as quoted by Fairfax Media. Human Services Minister Alan Tudge was quoted by Fairfax at the time saying: "Greens pretend to be a serious party but if a party does not understand the constitution, then what sort of party are they?" The Greens revelations led to an outpouring of smug politicians insisting they had relinquished any foreign citizenship, with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott going as far to upload a letter to prove he had given up British nationality. Blame it on mum So it was with some embarrassment that Canavan revealed that his mother had signed him up for Italian citizenship at the ripe age of 25. "Until last week I had no suspicion that I could be an Italian citizen. I was not born in Italy and have never been to Italy," the Queensland senator wrote. "In the short time available I have not been able to obtain definitive legal advice as to whether my registration as an Italian citizen, without my knowledge or consent, was valid under Italian law. I am seeking to obtain that advice presently." Canavan said he would step down from his cabinet role but would remain in the Senate until he had definitive proof one way or the other. Opposition Labor Party frontbencher Tony Burke was quoted by public broadcaster ABC as saying he did not think anyone could blame Senator Canavan given he had never been to Italy and had no way of knowing. "I remember when Malcolm Turnbull was gloating - it was a bit vicious at the time - about the Greens making some of these errors," he said. "I did have a thought, 'we'll be careful about going too hard at this point in time,' and now that looks like exactly what's happened to a very serious minister." After Canavan's announcement, former Greens Senator Waters posted a Tweet saying she disagreed with him "on almost everything" but "my heart goes out to him, family and staff with dual citizen news." Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he would take over Canavan's cabinet responsibilities while the High Court investigated the matter. Attorney General George Brandis said that because Canavan was registered without his consent, he was probably still eligible. It seems the ruling coalition dodged a bullet, given their victim of dual nationality was in the Senate where they have a comfortable majority, as opposed to the lower house, where they hold a majority of just one.

Australia’s ruling coalition has egg on its face after one of its own was caught in a dual nationality scandal. Matt Canavan’s mother secretly signed him up for Italian citizenship, making him ineligible. Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan stepped down on Tuesday after his mother revealed that he might also hold Italian citizenship. It was an embarrassing revelation for the ... Read More »

Pence visits DMZ border zone day after North Korea missile test

The US vice president has made a trip to an American base in South Korea close to the heavily fortified border with North Korea. He said the US "era of strategic patience" with Pyongyang was over. US Vice President Mike Pence continued his 10-day trip to Pacific nations Monday by visiting an American military base in South Korea just a few hundred meters south of the tense border with North Korea (DMZ). This is Pence's first trip to the Korean Peninsula since assuming office in January. Pence said it was "particularly humbling" to be at Camp Bonifas, a US-led UN command post, mentioning his father's military service during the Korean War. Pence emphasized the relationship between the US and South Korea. "The alliance between the United States Forces Korea and the forces of the Republic of Korea is historic," said Pence. "It is a testament to the unshakable bond between our people." "All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country," Pence remarked. In regard to North Korea, Pence said: "There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over." Pence's visit comes amid high tension between the US and North Korea. Pence called North Korea's failed ballistic missile test a "provocation" before gathered US military personnel. The missile test occurred following a parade that celebrated the 105th birthday of the late first Korean President Kim Il Sung. "This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world," said Pence. Pence is scheduled to visit the gateway to the DMZ and acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Monday. After South Korea, Pence is scheduled to travel to Japan, Indonesia and Australia during his 10-day trip. Trump, US allies on North Korea North Korea has launched short- and mid-range missiles in recent months. The country has also conducted five nuclear tests, including two in the previous year. North Korea's conducting nuclear tests is in defiance of UN resolutions on the country. US President Donald Trump has previously stated that if allies surrounding North Korea do not act to end North Korea's military program, the US will do it alone. China, North Korea's northern neighbor and sole political ally, previously spoke out against the missile tests. China banned the import of North Korean coal, Pyongyang's most important export, on February 26. Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, said China recognizes the severity of the situation, telling US media outlet ABC on Sunday "this situation just can't continue." Shinzo Abe, prime minister of fellow US ally Japan, demanded North Korea comply with UN resolutions and abandon developing nuclear missiles. "Japan will closely cooperate with the US and South Korea over North Korea and will call for China to take a bigger role," Abe told parliament.

The US vice president has made a trip to an American base in South Korea close to the heavily fortified border with North Korea. He said the US “era of strategic patience” with Pyongyang was over. US Vice President Mike Pence continued his 10-day trip to Pacific nations Monday by visiting an American military base in South Korea just a ... Read More »

Australia sues Audi, ignores Skoda

Australia's consumer watchdog has launched court action against Germany's Volkswagen brand Audi over the carmaker's emissions cheating scandal. It said it was seeking proper compensation for deceptive conduct. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced Wednesday it had begun legal proceedings in the country's Federal Court against German carmaker Audi over allegations that it misled clients about diesel emission levels in their cars. The watchdog said legal action was leveled at local subsidiary Audi Australia as well as Audi's German owner, Volkswagen. The ACCC alleged that between 2011 and 2015 Audi had "engaged in misleading conduct by not disclosing the existence and operation of defeat devices in certain Audi-branded vehicles." Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement the software used to manipulate emissions tests in the laboratory breached Australian consumer law. Skoda off the hook Roughly 12,000 Audi cars would be affected by the current proceedings, the ACCC reported. By contrast, Volkswagen's Skoda cars would not be affected as the commission decided not to pursue the matter due to the low volume of Skoda car sales in Australia. The watchdog is seeking pecuniary penalties and corrective advertising. The latest action followed court proceedings launched against Volkswagen-branded cars last year. In that lawsuit, the commission claimed that more than 57,000 vehicles sold in Australia did not operate as Volkswagen advertised. Since then, Volkswagen and Audi have announced voluntary recalls to update the software in question.

Australia’s consumer watchdog has launched court action against Germany’s Volkswagen brand Audi over the carmaker’s emissions cheating scandal. It said it was seeking proper compensation for deceptive conduct. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced Wednesday it had begun legal proceedings in the country’s Federal Court against German carmaker Audi over allegations that it misled clients about diesel emission ... Read More »

No survivors in Melbourne chartered plane crash

Police reported all five individuals on board have died after the plane smashed into a shopping center shortly after take off. Authorities suspect engine failure may have caused the accident. All five individuals aboard the Beechcraft light aircraft that smashed into an outlet shopping complex Tuesday have perished in the accident, Victoria police said. The crash occured shortly after the plane took off from the Essendon Fields airport around 9 a.m. local time (23.00 UTC), causing an explosion and significant damage to the building and surrounding area. The retail complex had not yet opened for the day at the time of accident, and authorities confirmed that no one was inside the building at the time of impact. Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane expressed amazement that the casualties had not been higher. "Looking at the fireball, it is incredibly lucky that no one was at the back of those stores or in the car park of the stores, that no one was even hurt," Leane said. Victoria Premier David Andrews called the crash the state's worst air accident in the past thirty years. "Today's a desperately sad day for our state, a very, very sad day for our state," Andrews said at a press conference. "A number of people have died as a result of the what is the worst civil aviation accident that our state has seen for 30 years." Witnesses described a "massive fireball" as the plane hit the building, follwed by debris and plane parts flying onto the nearby highways and a rising cloud of black smoke. Firefighters and emergency responders were dispatched to the scene immediately after the addicent. Preliminary investigations are centering on possible engine failure. The plane sent out a May-Day signal shortly before crashing, Victoria police reported. Previous reports that the plane was an ambulance aircraft were incorrect. Essendon airport, located some 16 kilometers (10 miles) north of Melbourne, is mostly used for small airplanes.

Police reported all five individuals on board have died after the plane smashed into a shopping center shortly after take off. Authorities suspect engine failure may have caused the accident. All five individuals aboard the Beechcraft light aircraft that smashed into an outlet shopping complex Tuesday have perished in the accident, Victoria police said. The crash occured shortly after the ... Read More »

Australia hopes to extradite top IS recruiter from Turkey

Australia wants to extradite a suspect from Turkey believed to be a top recruiter for the so-called "Islamic State." The suspect was initially believed dead but was arrested in Turkey several weeks ago. Australia is awaiting a response from Turkey to its extradition request for a citizen believed to be a top recruiter for the so-called "Islamic State" (IS). Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said Monday the suspect is believed to be Neil Prakash (photo above), who has been linked to several planned attacks in Australia and appeared in IS videos and magazines. Prakash, who is also known as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, has been described as "the most dangerous Australian" and was captured by Turkish forces several weeks ago as he attempted to enter Syria from Turkey. Prakash was thought to have died in a United States airstrike in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on April 29, but was merely injured. Link to terror plots "[Prakash] is obviously subject at the moment to the Turkish justice system and Turkish legal processes. The most important thing of course is that people involved in allegations of this nature face justice," said Keenan. The Australian government said they worked with Turkish authorities to arrest Prakash and would collaborate further to extradite him. "Australia will collaborate closely with Turkish authorities… Australia and Turkey have a longstanding history of cooperation to combat terrorism," a government statement said. Prakash has been linked to a failed plot to behead a police officer in Melbourne in April 2015 and to an 18-year-old who was killed after stabbing two police officers in Melbourne in 2014. Prakash faces a potential life sentence in Australia if he is convicted of terrorism charges.

Australia wants to extradite a suspect from Turkey believed to be a top recruiter for the so-called “Islamic State.” The suspect was initially believed dead but was arrested in Turkey several weeks ago. Australia is awaiting a response from Turkey to its extradition request for a citizen believed to be a top recruiter for the so-called “Islamic State” (IS). Australian ... Read More »

Australia reaches deal to send refugees languishing on islands to US

Australia has reached a resettlement deal with the United States for refugees held on two Pacific island detention centers. Canberra has come under international and domestic pressure over the camps. Refugees being held at controversial detention facilities on two isolated Pacific islands will be resettled in the United States, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Sunday. Asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat are sent to detention facilities on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and the small island nation of Nauru. Under Australia's strict border policy, they are prevented from receiving asylum even if found to be refugees. "The arrangements with the United States will offer the opportunity for refugees, both on Nauru and Manus, to be resettled," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. "It is a one-off agreement. It will not be repeated ... Our priority is the resettlement of women, children and families." Australia has come under international and domestic pressure over the detention camps, where some refugees have been stuck in limbo for more than three years. Rights groups have criticized Australia, citing bad conditions and mental health problems associated with what amounts to keeping refugees in indefinite detention on the islands. US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the resettlement deal, saying "we in the United States have agreed to consider referrals from [UN refugee body] UNHCR on refugees now residing in Nauru and in Papua New Guinea. "We know that these refugees are of special interest to UNHCR and we're very engaged with them on a humanitarian basis there and in other parts of the world," he told reporters in New Zealand on Sunday. Many refugees from Middle East, Asia It was unclear how the resettlement deal would proceed, with Donald Trump taking over the White House on January 20 after winning the US election this week. Trump campaigned on an anti-immigration and anti-Muslim policy. Many of the refugees on the islands are Muslims from the Middle East and Asia. The Australian and US governments did not say how many refugees were part of the resettlement plan. But Turnbull said the agreement was reached much earlier. "There is a great deal of preparation and planning that has gone into it and, indeed, in leading up to this announcement." Out of more than 2000 applications, about 675 asylum seekers on Manus and another 941 on Nauru have received initial or final refugee status, according to Australia's immigration department. Asylum seekers whose applications are denied will be sent back to their countries. Refugees who refuse to go to the United States will be offered 20-year residency on Nauru, a poor and environmentally destroyed island. The Australian funded detention center is now the island's main source of income. Papua New Guinea has said it will close the detention center on Manus. Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the deal was not an incentive for people smugglers to send boatloads of people to Australia. Future boat arrivals will not be eligible for the deal.

Australia has reached a resettlement deal with the United States for refugees held on two Pacific island detention centers. Canberra has come under international and domestic pressure over the camps. Refugees being held at controversial detention facilities on two isolated Pacific islands will be resettled in the United States, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Sunday. Asylum seekers who try ... Read More »

Australia stops five people suspected of plotting sailing trip to Syria

Five men have been arrested on suspicion of trying to leave Australia illegally on a small boat to sail to Indonesia. Officials believe the men wanted to join jihadis in Syria and 'engage in hostile acts.' The men taken into custody had bought a seven-meter (23-foot) boat to make the trip to Indonesia, Australian Federal Police said Wednesday. "The suspicion is that they were seeking to leave Australia by vessel to avoid the fact that they couldn't travel by air because their passports had been canceled," said Attorney-General George Brandis. The group is suspected of having towed their power boat behind a car for 2,800 kilometers (1,700 miles) from Melbourne to Cairns, in northern Australia, police said. According to Brandis, they intended to "leave Australia by sea, transiting to Indonesia and, from Indonesia, seeking to reach Syria to engage in hostile acts in that country." 'Serious attempt' to leave country The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that one of the five men was Melbourne-born Islamic preacher Musa Cerantonio. Cerantonio, who converted from Catholicism at age 17, was deported from the Philippines two years ago for urging people to join jihadi movements. The police, however, declined to identify all the men in the group, saying only they were aged between 21 and 33 and known to have "extremist views." "This is a serious attempt by five men who are of security interest to us who have had their passports canceled in attempting to exit Australia," Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told reporters. "We're investigating the intention to possibly end up in Syria to fight. "We can't allow Australians to leave Australia and support terrorism anywhere," he said. Canberra estimates that some 110 of its citizens are already fighting in the Middle East. Between 50 and 59 nationals have been killed so far, according to Brandis. The country has also been targeted by several terrorist attacks, including a 2014 café siege in Sydney that left two hostages dead and an attack on a police employee last year.

Five men have been arrested on suspicion of trying to leave Australia illegally on a small boat to sail to Indonesia. Officials believe the men wanted to join jihadis in Syria and ‘engage in hostile acts.’ The men taken into custody had bought a seven-meter (23-foot) boat to make the trip to Indonesia, Australian Federal Police said Wednesday. “The suspicion ... Read More »

Papua New Guinea announces Australian refugee center closure

A Supreme Court ruling means an Australian-run refugee detention facility on Papua New Guinea is illegal and must close. Now PNG is working with Australia to find a new place for the refugees to go. The island nation of Papua New Guinea has announced it will close a center for asylum seekers it had been hosting on behalf of Australia. This comes a day after the Supreme Court in Papa New Guinea deemed it was unconstitutional to allow Australia to detain asylum seekers on the country's Manus Island. "Respecting this ruling, Papua New Guinea will immediately ask the Australian government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum-seekers currently held at the regional processing center," Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said in a statement on Wednesday. No exceptions Australian policy regarding those who attempt to enter the country illegally by boat is to reject them and send them to detention camps, paid for by the Australian government, in Papua New Guinea and the island nation of Nauru. Those found to have legitimate claims for asylum can be resettled in Papua New Guinea or Cambodia under agreements reached between Australia and those two countries. Regarding the current asylum seekers on Manus Island, O'Neill said that legitimate refugees were welcome to live in Papua New Guinea "only if they want to be a part of our society and make a contribution to our community," but added: "It is clear that several of these refugees do not want to settle in Papua New Guinea and that is their decision." There are currently over 800 asylum seekers being held on Manus Island, and Papua New Guinea will now being working with Australian officials about where to relocate the people being detained. Australia has made it clear that under no circumstances will they be resettled in Australia. Self-immolation Meanwhile, a 23-year-old refugee in an Australian-run detention facility on Nauru is set to be airlifted to an Australian hospital after setting himself on fire Tuesday during a routine visit of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to the facility. According to news reports, the man shouted "I can not take this any more" before setting himself on fire. Bystanders quickly attempted to douse the flames with water and blankets. The man is in critical condition, but Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said his application for asylum would not be influenced.

A Supreme Court ruling means an Australian-run refugee detention facility on Papua New Guinea is illegal and must close. Now PNG is working with Australia to find a new place for the refugees to go. The island nation of Papua New Guinea has announced it will close a center for asylum seekers it had been hosting on behalf of Australia. ... Read More »

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