Thursday, December 13, 2018

UK’s May faces leadership crisis

Conservative party MPs have called a leadership challenge against British prime minister Theresa May following her deferral of a crucial vote on Brexit. Addressing a meeting of Conservative backbenchers, May said she would step down before the next general election in 2022. Former environment secretary Owen Paterson published a letter of no confidence on Tuesday, saying “it would be a travesty if the democratic verdict of the 2016 referendum - the largest in British history - were not delivered”. May delayed a parliamentary vote on the government’s draft Brexit proposal earlier this week, admitting it was unlikely to pass given widespread cross-party opposition. The results of the vote will be known at 9am (AEDT).

United States president Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has been sentenced to three years in jail for breaking campaign finance laws, tax evasion and lying to the US Congress. Speaking in federal court in Manhattan, US District Judge William Pauley III said Cohen had committed “a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct”. In a statement, Cohen said he had “been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen that I deeply admired”, saying “time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds”. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges, including several arising from the payment of US$130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels shortly before Trump contested the 2016 presidential election.

Australian authorities notified the Thai government that Bahraini refugee Hakeem al-Araibi had entered the country, despite the notice for his arrest being issued by the regime from which he fled. Al-Araibi, 25, was arrested earlier this month after travelling to Thailand to compete in a soccer tournament. In a statement on Wednesday, the department of home affairs confirmed they had “advised Thai authorities in relation to the scheduled arrival of a person who was the subject of an Interpol Red Notice”, claiming that “any action taken in response to the Interpol Red Notice is a matter for Thai authorities”. Red notices do not apply to refugees if they are issued by the country from which the refugee fled. Thai authorities have indicated al-Araibi will likely be deported to Bahrain, where al-Araibi claims he was tortured for criticising the government. Former Australian soccer captain Craig Moore, SBS commentator David Basheer and Football Victoria have issued calls for al-Arabi’s release, with support organising under the Twitter hashtag #SaveHakeem.

Home affairs minister Peter Dutton has appointed a new commander to oversee Operation Sovereign Borders and ordered the Australian Border Force not to reduce sea patrols despite a tight budget. Speaking on Wednesday, new Sovereign Borders commander major general Craig Furini stressed the importance of maintaining Australia’s offshore detention policy, saying “everything in Australia is being watched and could be spun - correctly or incorrectly - to market illegal maritime arrivals”. On Tuesday, Dutton said he had “given very specific direction to the ABF commissioner” not to reduce ocean patrols following the publication of an internal ABF email saying that “ships will cease active patrolling to achieve [a] fuel saving”.

And a Senate inquiry will hear from financially vulnerable Australians targeted by the credit and debt services industries. The inquiry, which holds its first public hearing next week, will investigate how people are affected by payday loan and buy-now-pay-later schemes, as well as legal and financial aid services. In its submission, the Salvation Army found that “the incidence of people with predatory debt (payday loans and consumer leases) increased significantly, particularly for people aged 18-24 years”. Speaking to Guardian Australia, Financial Counselling Australia chief executive Fiona Guthrie said “there has been widespread irresponsible lending in the industry, in payday lending and rent-to-buy in particular”.



“Conservative Liberal MPs are accusing Prime Minister Scott Morrison of creating a political disaster out of religious schools’ policies on homosexuality after he blindsided his party on the issue for a second time. Some Liberals who remain opposed to same-sex marriage are blaming Morrison for turning the review of religious freedoms – commissioned a year ago during the marriage postal survey, ostensibly to ease their concerns – into an albatross that is damaging the government.”


“Norfolk Island history unsettles any simplistic notions of ethnic identity. The locals might, with equal justice, be considered Tahitians, descended from the women taken as wives by European men. The island’s Council of Elders (representing descendants of the eight original Pitcairn families) mimics similar organisations throughout the Pacific Islands; the Kingston tent embassy recalls the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.”


“Steffensen is an Indigenous fire practitioner, an educator, a filmmaker. He says he didn’t choose fire, it was more like fire demanded to be chosen. As step one when looking after the land. He runs fire workshops across Australia, on country, in partnership with Indigenous communities.”


“The NSW government has again rejected the possibility of pill testing being introduced at music festivals, following the death of a man on the weekend ... ‘If we thought it would save a single life, of course, we would go down that path’, she said.”


“Daniel Hadley, a former police officer and the son of broadcaster Ray Hadley, has had a charge of cocaine possession against him dropped in a Sydney court ... At Parramatta Local Court today, magistrate Garry Still dismissed the charge under the Mental Health Act, discharging Hadley into the ‘care of a responsible person’.”


“A relaxed-looking juvenile Hawaiian monk seal lounges near a sandy white beach on some green foliage. Its eyes are half-closed, and it has a serene expression on its face. But the seal’s calm demeanour is surprising. Why? Well, there’s a long, black-and-white eel dangling from its right nostril.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.