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May, 2019

Turnbull ‘threatened PM staffer over OzCar’

Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has been accused of threatening one of the prime minister’s staff over the OzCar affair.

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The approach was reportedly made during parliament’s mid-winter ball on Wednesday, federal Treasurer Wayne Swan said today.

“We all know there’s good Malcolm and bad Malcolm, but I think the bad Malcolm turned up at the … ball the other night,” Mr Swan told reporters in Canberra.

The Coalition has vowed to use a Senate inquiry today to pursue claims Mr Rudd and Mr Swan assisted a Queensland car dealer to access the $2 billion taxpayer-funded OzCar scheme.

The scheme aims to help cash-strapped dealers obtain finance to purchase cars.

Mr Swan refused to divulge the nature of Mr Turnbull’s alleged threats, or whether it was being treated as a criminal matter.

“That threat will be detailed in a full statement later on,” Mr Swan said during a rowdy news conference.

Mr Swan was again asked whether he was confident that there was no representation made by Mr Rudd’s office on behalf of Mr Grant.

“We can find no record of any relationship between the prime minister or his office and Mr Grant,” he said.

The Senate’s economics committee sits today to consider the legislation setting up OzCar, and the coalition has vowed to question Treasury officials about the issue.

Charges denied

Mr Swan denied the prime minister or his office had made representations on behalf of the Ipswich dealer John Grant, who has provided Mr Rudd with a free ute for use as a mobile electorate office.

Mr Grant had made representations to the treasurer’s office, just as many other car dealers had through coalition MPs.

Mr Grant had received no assistance from either OzCar or from Ford Credit, Mr Swan said.

‘Provide evidence’

The treasurer demanded Mr Turnbull produce evidence to support the allegations or apologise to Mr Rudd.

Earlier, Mr Turnbull said there appeared to a huge conflict of interest in Mr Rudd’s relationship with Mr Grant.

“There’s obviously a gigantic conflict of interest here, huge conflict of interest,” Mr Turnbull told Macquarie Radio.

The coalition has used parliament’s question time to quiz both Mr Rudd and Mr Swan about any representations they or their offices made on behalf of Mr Grant.

Mr Rudd should step down if he was found to have misled parliament with his answers, Mr Turnbull said.

“If he has misled parliament deliberately twice, that is a very, very serious offence,” he said.

Note provided

The government later released a file note of a conversation between Mr Turnbull and Andrew Charlton, a senior adviser in the prime minister’s office.

In the note, Mr Charlton says Mr Turnbull spoke to him during the ball. It goes on to say:

Turnbull: This whole OzCar issue will be very damaging for you. Let me give you some friendly advice. You should not lie to protect your boss.

Charlton: I have not.

Turnbull: You know and I know there is documentary evidence that you have lied.

Charlton: There is not.

Turnbull: Andrew, you know that there is documentary evidence. This could be very damaging for you.

Charlton: I have not had any contact with Mr Grant.

Turnbull: Ah well, I advise you to consider your actions very carefully.

Following the conversation, Mr Charlton walked outside the building and relayed its details to a colleague, the file note said.

‘Freezer baby’ mother gets 8 years jail

Jurors have sentenced a French woman to eight years in jail for killing three of her newborn babies, burning one corpse and hiding the others in a freezer.

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Prosecutors had called for a 10-year sentence for Veronique Courjault, after she admitted to smothering two baby boys to death at her expat home in South Korea in 2002 and 2003, and a third child born in France in 1999.

The 41-year-old, who has served three years in pre-trial detention, betrayed no emotion as the verdict was read out in the central city of Tours on Thursday, at the close of an eight-day trial that has gripped France.

The high-profile case focused on whether Courjault — described as a caring mother to her two living sons, now 12 and 14 — suffered from a mental illness when she gave birth alone to the three babies and then killed them.

Courjault, who kept the three pregancies hidden from her husband and entire family, had faced a maximum life sentence for the triple infanticide, but prosecutors finally sought 10 years.

“Do not demonise Veronique Courjault,” prosecutor Philippe Varin told the jury. “But do not turn her into an icon either.”

Mental health experts were called at the trial to testify on a little-known condition identified as “pregnancy denial”, a deep disorder in which a woman suffers from a complete lack of awareness of being pregnant.

Varin argued that she was not suffering from denial, saying she managed to “fool her entire entourage”, but acknowledged that many questions remained unanswered in the case.

Courjault’s husband Jean-Louis, who discovered the two corpses in the family freezer in 2006, has supported his wife since her confession and insisted throughout the trial she needs psychiatric help, not punishment.

Defence lawyers had appealed to jurors to show understanding in their verdict and allow the troubled family to rebuild their lives.

“This woman committed a mistake, a crime, but she is not a monster,” said lawyer Henri Leclerc in his closing arguments.

Senator denies baby removal a stunt

The senator who’s at the centre of a parliamentary debate after her toddler was forcibly removed from parliament denies the incident was a stunt.

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The two-year-old daughter of Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young was taken from her hands on the orders of Labour’s Senate president John Hogg yesterday.

As the child named Kora was taken from her mother’s arms by a staffer, she became distressed and cried loudly.

Her wails were still audible after the chamber doors were locked.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt so humiliated in my life,” says Senator Hanson-Young.

“What upset me the most was seeing her (Kora) being upset and not knowing who I was going to hand her to on the other side of the door.”

Calls for rules to be changed

The incident has caused debate in parliament today about whether infants should be allowed in parliament.

Greens leader Bob Brown strongly objected to the removal of the child and Family First Senator Steve Fielding says the matter could have been handled better.

Senator Brown said he had a “good, long talk” with Senator Hogg, adding some good will come out of the incident.

The Senate president Hogg says he was following the relevant order governing who should be in the chamber.

But he later admitted that the situation could have been dealt with better saying a procedure committee “will help ensure these matters are able to be better handled in the future.”

‘Unsurprising’ that the baby cried

The NSW Opposition spokeswoman for women Pru Goward says she believes Senator Hanson-Young might have expected what the result would be by taking her child into the chamber.

Ms Goward, a former sex discrimination commissioner, says the senator had a staff member nearby who could take the child.

“I think if you promise a little girl that she can come in with you and you run down there with her in your arms and then at the last minute because you actually didn’t check, the child is taken away from you and she cries, nobody can really be surprised,” she told ABC radio.

“This really says to me that there should be some laws about this so there are no unexpected situations that arise, so that the senators and the staff all know what’s expected,” Ms Goward says.

“I think children in workplaces can be very distracting and I would have thought on this occasion it would have been just as easy to have left the child with the staffer.”

“When you put people into dramatic situations don’t be surprised when they cry.”

But Senator Hanson-Young has defended her actions saying that she had taken Kora into the chamber on previous occasions.

She says she took her daughter Kora into the chamber for a vote yesterday evening because they were about to be separated for 24 hours, with the baby flying to Adelaide to be with her dad.

Downloader fined almost $2 million

A 32-year-old woman has been ordered to pay a staggering $US1.

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92 million ($A2.4 million) fine for illegally downloading 24 songs by a US court.

A jury found that Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a mother of four from the state of Minnesota, is liable for using an internet program called Kazaa to download the songs from a peer-to-peer file sharing network.

Jurors took just under five hours to reach yesterday’s verdict.

The court has ordered Ms Thomas-Rasset to pay about $US80,000 ($A100,000) per song to six record companies: Capitol Records, Sony BMG Music, Arista Records, Interscope Records, Warner Bros. Records and UMG Recordings.

Previous conviction

Thomas-Rasset had been convicted previously, in October 2007, and ordered to pay $US220,000 ($A275,000) in damages but the judge who presided over that trial threw out the verdict calling it “wholly disproportionate” and “oppressive.”

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and major music labels have brought suit against thousands of people for illegally downloading and sharing music, with most agreeing to settlements of between 3,000 and 5,000 dollars.

Thomas-Rasset was the first among those being sued to refuse a settlement and instead took the case to court.

In December, the RIAA said it will stop suing people who download music illegally and focus instead on getting internet Service Providers to take action.

The move away from litigation represented a major shift in strategy for the music industry group, which had filed lawsuits against some 35,000 people for online music piracy since 2003.

Timeline: Iran’s election

Key events involving Iran since the June 12 presidential election:

Friday, June 12

– More than 46 million eligible voters invited to choose between four candidates, with incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s last prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi the favourites.

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Soon after the voting ended Mousavi announces he has won the election.

Saturday, June 13

– The interior ministry announces Ahmadinejad has won with almost 63 percent of the vote against 34 percent for Mousavi. Turnout reported at 85 percent.

– Ahmadinejad calls the result “a great victory” and says the vote was “completely free.” Mousavi complains of “numerous and blatant irregularities.”

– Mousavi supporters take to the streets of Tehran, clashing with baton-wielding police in the worst violence since widespread student protests in 1999.

– Some Internet and mobile phone services disrupted, leading to accusations of media censorship.

Sunday, June 14

– Police say they rounded up about 170 people during post-election violence on Saturday. Human rights group Amnesty International calls for an investigation into alleged police brutality.

– Ahmadinejad addresses a huge victory rally in Tehran.

– Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says he has asked the Guardians Council, which supervises elections, to probe allegations of rigging and calls on Mousavi to pursue any complaints via legal and peaceful means.

– Leading Western nations express concern about the election outcome.

Monday, June 15

– Mousavi appears in public for the first time since the election at a mass rally in Tehran that gathers hundreds of thousands of people.

– The Guardians Council says it will investigate complaints of irregularities lodged by Mousavi as well as Mohsen Rezai and Mehdi Karroubi, the other two presidential candidates.

– Relatives of people arrested in the protests demonstrate outside a Tehran court.

– UN chief Ban Ki-moon calls for the will of the Iranian people to be “fully respected.”

Tuesday, June 16

– State radio says at least seven people were killed in Monday’s violence.

– Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says there should be a partial recount if required.

– State television says the rival camps staged more mass rallies in the capital.

– Iran announces restrictions on foreign media, including banning them from covering “unauthorised” rallies.

– Organisers of the pro-regime rally blamed “enemies, particularly the US, Britain, and Israel” for “interfering in Iran’s internal affairs, plotting against the government and giving media support to enemy groups, rioters and social and political hooligans.”

– Ahmadinejad attends an international security conference in Russia, where he says “the age of empires has ended.”

– US President Barack Obama says he has “deep concerns” over the election but will not meddle in Iranian affairs, and the White House says Obama remains “committed to direct engagement” with Iran, despite the violence.

– The foreign ministry summons EU envoys to protest at reaction to the vote.

– Unrest reported in other cities including Mashhad, Isfahan and Shiraz.

Wednesday, June 17

– Mousavi repeats call for new election, while urging supporters to hold a march and a day of mourning on Thursday for protesters slain in clashes.

– Two more prominent supporters of Mousavi are arrested.

– Foreign ministry accuses some foreign media of becoming the “mouthpiece of rioters.”

– Revolutionary Guards threaten Iran’s online media with legal action if their sites publish material that creates “tension.”

– Tens of thousands of Mousavi supporters defy a ban on opposition gatherings and take part in a “silent” protest rally, marching through central Tehran. State television broadcast brief footage of the rally.

– A dozen Iranian journalists and bloggers have been arrested and others are in hiding after authorities took steps to restrict the media, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.

Thursday, June 18

– Iran’s Mehr news agency said supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will lead Friday prayers in Tehran in the presence of the Basij volunteer Islamic militia.

– The three defeated candidates in the election have cited 646 violations in the June 12 poll, electoral watchdog the Guardians Council said.

– Iran’s top clerical body, the Assembly of Experts, hailed the mass turnout in the June 12 presidential election but stayed silent on the disputed results.