Brussels attacks a ‘failure of intelligence’: Belgian terrorism expert

A Brussels-based terrorism and security expert has told SBS News the attacks in the Belgian city were the result of a “failure of intelligence”.

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Speaking from Belgium, Thomas Renard, a terrorism expert at the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based think-tank, said there had clearly been a “major failure” in the country’s security services.

“To put it bluntly, when there is an attack, something went wrong and this is quite clear,” he told SBS News.

“Now the question is, what went wrong, and we don’t know yet. Obviously at this stage it’s too early to tell.”

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He said the fault could be down to a multitude of factors including a breakdown in interagency communication and co-operation, security authorities underestimating the threat posed by people of interest or whether too much emphasis had been put into the hunt for the Paris attackers, including Salah Abdeslam.

A US government official told Reuters the attacks showed Belgium had not “upped their game” in national security, despite being home to more returned Syrian fighters than any other European country.

However Mr Renard said it was quite difficult to completely defend against attacks like that seen at the airport, where explosives were hidden in bags and under coats.

“How do you prevent this kind of people from walking into a metro station or walking in an airport hall way?” he said.

“Unless you live in a war zone where you have these kinds of security checks before entering the airport or before entering buildings – I don’t think that that in any of our democratic societies, citizens will accept these measures for more than one day.”

Since the attacks there have been harsh criticisms of the security at Brussels airport, but Mr Renard said these were “misplaced”.

“If you go to Brussels, you’ll find exactly the same kind of preventive measures that you will encounter in any international airport,” he said.

“Since last November when the threat level was raised to the highest level … military personnel have been patrolling the airport on a daily basis.

“In Belgium we did not have military on the streets for a long, long time so it’s just clear that this threat has been taken seriously.

“In absolute numbers, although not a lot of military personnel were actually in the airport, there were about 500 army personnel permanently in the street, now they’re raising that number to 750. It doesn’t seem much, but for a country like Belgium, it’s actually quite a lot.”

However others are not so sure Belgium is on top of the security threat to the country.

The former head of the Belgian intelligence service, Alain Winants, told Reuters Belgium had been slow to adopt modern surveillance techniques and equipment, such as phone tapping.

He said police had even had to deny they let Abdeslam, who has since been arrested and is in custody in Bruges, slip through their fingers due to a law banning house raids at night.

Reuters reported the country had 193 local police forces, and in Brussels along there were 19 autonomous mayors – all part of a bureaucracy that hindered information sharing.

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There were concerns not enough is being done to prevent disaffected young people from finding acceptance in the notorious Molenbeek area – a neighbourhood that has become synonymous with Islamic militants and radicalisation, Reuters reported.

Mr Renard said while some security measures had already been taken, there was “always room for improvement”.

“I think that the way to solve the problem is to increase the resources and the powers of our intelligence and security services on the one hand, and improve our prevention force and deradicalisation programs. I think these are the real priorities here,” he said.

He said these attacks would most likely result in an investigation into how the attacks were able to be carried out.

“Not only will a lot of people raise questions about this, but I think they will criticise,” Mr Renard said.

“In this case, there is certainly going to be an investigation on the investigation.

“First we will need to leave time and space for the police investigation, but once that is done, I am rather confident that there will be a parliamentary investigation or something similar and if they discover that there’s been a major issue related to lack of cooperation and coordination at the political level at the level or security of Belgium services, then in that case one may envisage a reform of their functioning.”

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With Reuters.

Russian court sentences Ukrainian pilot to 22 years in jail

A Russian court sentenced Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko to 22 years in jail on Tuesday after finding her guilty of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists during the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country would never recognise the verdict of what he called a “kangaroo court” and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Savchenko back home to Ukraine.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has subsided since a fragile ceasefire was agreed, but Savchenko’s trial showed the depth of bitterness that remains. Savchenko, 34, is a national hero in Ukraine but many in Russia see her as a Ukrainian nationalist with the blood of civilians on her hands.

The sentence is likely to prompt protests from the European Union, which has called for Savchenko’s release.

Savchenko, who was elected a member of the Ukrainian parliament while awaiting trial, was defiant as the verdict was read out. She climbed onto a bench and sang the Ukrainian national anthem at the top of her voice.

Savchenko, who wore a T-shirt bearing the Ukrainian trident, a state symbol, has denied having anything to do with the deaths of the journalists.

Poroshenko said after the verdict: “Ukraine will never – I repeat, never – recognise either the kangaroo court of Nadezhda Savchenko, nor its so-called sentencing.”

He said Putin had promised him some months ago that he would return Savchenko to Ukraine once the trial was over.

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“The time has come to fulfil that promise,” Poroshenko said in a statement. “In turn, I am prepared to hand over to Russia the two Russian servicemen captured on our territory for taking part in armed aggression against Ukraine.”

Russian officials have previously signalled they would be willing to consider a prisoner exchange.

Only Putin can decide whether Russia will trade Savchenko with Kiev, the Interfax news agency quoted Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, as saying on Tuesday.

Singing protest 

At the hearing in southern Russian, judge Leonid Stepanenko, between shouted interruptions by Savchenko, dismissed her lawyers’ arguments that she could not have been involved in killing the journalists.

“The evidence provided by the prosecution side is trustworthy and completely disproves the theory of the defence about Savchenko’s innocence,” the judge said.

He said the court had decided “to select as the final punishment for Savchenko 22 years of confinement of liberty with a fine of 30,000 roubles (US$442).”

The sentence was one year less than the term prosecutors had sought.

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Asked by the judge if she understood the sentence, Savchenko stood on a bench in the cage where she was being kept and began singing the Ukrainian national anthem. Her supporters in the courtroom joined the singing and tried to unfurl a blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag, before security staff bundled them out.

Savchenko, who had taken leave from her job as a military pilot to volunteer with Ukraine’s ground forces fighting against the separatists in eastern Ukraine, was captured by pro-Moscowrebels there in June 2014.

She was handed over to Russia where she was charged with directing mortar fire which killed the two Russian journalists who were covering the conflict.

She has repeatedly gone on hunger strike, and says she is the victim of a show trial aimed at humiliating Ukraine.

During the trial, angry Ukrainians have pelted the Russian embassy in Kiev with eggs over her plight, while Russians have picketed the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow demanding justice for the dead journalists.

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Minute’s silence for Brussels victims

People across Brussels have held a minute’s silence to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks on the international airport and a subway station in the Belgian capital.

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King Philippe, the premier and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attended a memorial event at the commission’s headquarters.

Top Belgian and EU officials marked the occasion near the Maelbeek subway station, located close to European Union offices.

More than 1000 people gathered around an improvised shrine with candles and street paintings outside the Brussels bourse.

Television and radio broadcasters had announced they would participate in the minute’s silence, which was also marked in other parts of the country.

Belgian police have identified a prime suspect in Tuesday’s blasts and two suspected suicide bombers, linking them directly to Islamic State militants behind last November’s Paris attacks, Belgian media reported on Wednesday.

Najim Laachraoui, 25, is believed to be the man seen on CCTV pushing a baggage trolley alongside the bombers and then running out of the Brussels airport terminal.

Earlier some media reported that he had been captured in the Brussels borough of Anderlecht, but they later said the person detained was not Laachraoui.

Police and prosecutors refused immediate comment but the federal prosecutor was due to hold a news conference at 1200 GMT (2300 AEDT).

The death toll in the attacks on the Belgian capital, home to the European Union and NATO, rose to at least 31 with about 260 wounded, Health Minister Maggie De Block said on VRT television.

It could rise further because some of the bomb victims at Maelbeek metro station were blown to pieces and victims are hard to identify.

One of the suspects seen on CCTV pushing baggage trolleys at Brussels airport just before the explosions was identified as Brahim El Bakraoui, public broadcaster RTBF reported. It said his brother, Khalid, blew himself up on the metro train.

Both had criminal records for armed robbery but had not previously been linked by investigators to Islamist militants.

Laachraoui is wanted in connection with the Paris attacks.

His DNA was found on at least two explosives belts used in those attacks and at a Brussels hideout used last week by prime Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested last Friday after a shoot-out with police.

RTBF said Khalid El Bakraoui had rented under a false name the apartment in the city’s Forest borough, where police hunting Abdeslam killed a gunman in a raid last week. He is also believed to have rented a safe house in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi used to mount last November’s Paris attacks.

The Syrian-based Islamist group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, four days after Abdeslam’s arrest in Brussels, warning of “black days” for those fighting it in Syria and Iraq. Belgian warplanes have joined the coalition in the Middle East, but Brussels has long been a centre of Islamist militancy.

The attacks sent shockwaves across Europe and around the world, with authorities racing to review security at airports and on public transport, and rekindled debate about European security cooperation and police methods.

Prime Minister Charles Michel cancelled a trip to China and convened his inner cabinet to discuss security.

Police searched an apartment in the northern Brussels borough of Schaerbeek late into the night, finding another bomb, an Islamic State flag and bomb-making chemicals.

Local media said authorities had followed a tip from a taxi driver who may have driven the bombers to the airport.

An unused explosive device was later found at the airport and a man wearing a light-coloured jacket and a hat, believed to be Laachraoui, was seen running away from the terminal after the explosions.

The suspects were photographed pushing bags on trolleys, and witnesses said many of the airport dead and wounded were hit mostly in the legs, possibly indicating blasts at floor level.

The two men in dark clothes wore gloves on their left hands only. One security expert speculated they might have concealed detonators. The man in the hat was not wearing gloves.

Life began to return to normal in Brussels on Wednesday, with some public transport working and cars returning to the European district, but the metro system remained closed and the airport was still shut to travellers.

Brussels airport will remain closed on Thursday, chief executive Arnaud Feist said.

Weekend sport preview

The US Open Golf tournament, the second major of the year, is underway just outside the mid-west city of Milwaukee on the Erin Hills Course.

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The tournament dates back to 1895 and it has built a reputation of making the world’s top players work hard to win the trophy.

Jason Day and Adam Scott headline a five-strong Australian contingent hoping to do just that.

But the former US Masters Champion Scott says it won’t be easy.

“I’d dearly love to get in contention this week and win the US Open. I think what an amazing event to win. It’s just a battle. Everyone who has won a US Open has won this incredible battle not only against the best players in the world but against some of the most incredibly difficult golf course set-ups you’ll ever see. And I’d really love to put my name on that list.”

Yachting’s 35th America’s Cup Final gets underway in the early hours of Sunday morning Australian time with the opening two races of the series in Bermuda.

Team New Zealand is looking to avenge its heartbreaking loss to Team USA of four years ago.

New Zealand beat Sweden to reach the final during the week but the American team, skippered by Australian James Spithill, is ready and waiting.

While their final opponents were battling their way past the Scandinavians, the US team has been busy fine-tuning its preparations for the final.

And Spithill admits his team must improve if it is to retain the trophy.

“We need to be faster if we’re going to win this America’s Cup and for the sailors we need to technique-wise get a little better, a little more consistent. We know we’ve been making a lot of mistakes out there, but we’re a very, very candid team so we’ll go back and we’re going to work really hard.”

The third and fourth races take place in the early hours of Monday morning.

Four years ago, Team New Zealand allowed an 8-1 series lead to slip to lose the trophy 9-8.

The inaugural Super Netball Championship comes to its climax on Saturday night in Brisbane when the Sunshine Coast Lightning takes on the Sydney Giants.

It’s fitting that two new teams created for the tournament have won the right to contest the final which will pit two English captains against each other.

Geva Mentor will lead the Lightning, while good friend and England team mate Jo Harten will lead out the Giants.

But Harten says for the season decider, their friendship will be put on hold.

“I’ve had a few text messages. I texted her last weekend, but you know you keep it all professional. We keep it all cheery and smiley and when you hit the court it’s obviously enemy number one – she’s your English teammate, but at the moment she’s the enemy.”

Cricket’s Champions Trophy will be decided at London’s Oval ground on Sunday evening.

Host England was thrashed by a resurgent Pakistan on Thursday, with Pakistan hoping to get revenge on India in the final.

Pakistan lost to India en-route to the final, but captain Sarfraz Ahmed says that defeat only served to inspire his side.

“I think we just talked after the India match, we just motivated the guys, don’t worry about the India match, this is gone. We have two matches, if we play good cricket definitely we will win this tournament, now we are in the final.”

Next week’s Rugby League State of Origin sees this weekend’s scheduled NRL matches cut to half their usual number.

The Rabbitohs and Titans are in action tonight [Fri] in the first of four matches over the weekend.

In the AFL, the top two on the ladder the Adelaide Crows and Greater Western Sydney Giants have byes.

Richmond welcomes the Sydney Swans to the MCG on Saturday while the reigning Premier Western Bulldogs take on Melbourne on Sunday afternoon in two of the big match-ups.

 

Tippett overlooked, Swans want improvement

Misfiring Sydney ruckman Kurt Tippett is feeling fitter and playing better but the dumped star won’t be given any special treatment as he continues to battle for an AFL recall.

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Tippett excelled in the seconds last weekend, having been dropped after an underwhelming performance against Hawthorn in round 10.

Swans big men Sam Naismith and Callum Sinclair dominated in his absence against Western Bulldogs, winning the hitouts 65-16.

It meant Tippett was left on the sidelines yet again for Sydney’s crunch clash with Richmond at the MCG on Saturday.

Swans coach John Longmire expects Tippett’s stint in the seconds to be short-lived, noting the club was confident the 30-year-old would produce “his best form pretty quickly”.

But Longmire also made it clear Tippett, who joined the Swans on a lucrative multi-million deal in 2012, would not be gifted anything.

“Kurt will play when we think he can help us win, like our other two ruckmen and like every other player in the team,” Longmire said.

“He just has to work on a few things and make sure he has a real presence in the air and on the ground.

“It’s pretty basic. He certainly improved in those areas last week and I’m sure he will continue to improve.

“There’s nothing wrong with his attitude. His attitude is always really good.”

Tippett started his career in the red and white by serving an 11-game suspension for his role in Adelaide salary cap breaches.

A series of injuries followed, meaning he is in the midst of his fifth season at the SCG but has only played 70 games for the Swans.

The stop-start narrative continued this year in the form of ankle and hip setbacks.

“He’s certainly feeling a bit better,” Longmire said.

“Like all players, you need to manage them.

“He’s certainly been able to put the training program together. We’re confident he’ll be able to be in his best form pretty quickly.”

The Swans will face a familiar foe in Saturday’s ruck battle.

Toby Nankervis will tackle Sydney for the first time since being traded by the club, having since played a key role in helping Richmond claim a top-four spot.

“He’s been in fantastic form. At the back end of last year he was in pretty good form as well,” Longmire said.

“We were keen to keep Toby last year but we understood the opportunities that Richmond could offer were a bit greater.”

Meanwhile, the 2012 premiership coach confirmed former co-captain Kieren Jack (dislocated fingers) will be fit to face the Tigers.

Concerns over Australian building fire safety after London tragedy

It’s too soon to tell and official investigations are underway, but there’s speculation the building’s new cladding could have contributed.

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And there are fears some Australian high-rises could also be compromised.

Australian skylines are dotted with high rise towers.

There are fears many of them could prove to be the death traps the Grenfell tower proved to be.

Engineer Stephen Kip coducts fire safety building audits.

“What I’m seeing when I audit buildings are uses of foam-based cladding materials, polystyrene, polyethelene and sometimes polyurethane, which are not compliant with the building code but which are used because they’re cheap and energy-efficient.”

Senator Nich Xenophon is calling for immediate action in Australia.

“We have to take this very seriously, we need to have an audit of all high rise buildings which have cladding, to ensure it’s fire retardant and meets Australian standards. If it’s not, it needs to be removed.”

A 2014 fire at the Lacrosse apartments in Melbourne’s Docklands, blamed on the cladding, spread through 13 floors in less than 11 minutes.

Nearly a thousand people were forced to flee.

Chris Stoltz from Engineers Australia, says only two years ago, a skyscraper fire in Dubai forced a tightening of rules there.

“The way to solve it is to make sure that the building companies that build these buildings, the developers who develop them and fund them, that they use properly certified engineers in their design, and have their buildings certified by a fire safety engineer.”

With the high price of housing, apartment living is an increasingly popular option in Australia.

Building experts, like University of Melbourne’s Giorgio Marfella, are warning buyers to ensure they complete all the necessary checks.

“They should ask for proof…”

A senate committee report investigating the use of non-conforming building materials is due in October.

 

 

Fears of stateless kids and ‘extraordinary’ powers for Dutton prompt new citizenship concerns

Details of the proposal to change citizenship laws have been revealed, including the granting of “extraordinary” powers to the Immigration Minister, and the possibility of rendering children born in Australia stateless.

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Introducing the bill to parliament on Thursday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the bill “reinforces the integrity of our citizenship program.”

“This will help maintain strong public support for migration and the value of Australian citizenship in what is an increasingly challenging national security environment and complex global security situation,” he said.

The bill proposes to increase the residency requirement for citizenship from one year to four years, introduce separate English testing and require a demonstration of “shared values”.

Dr Sangeetha Pillai from the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW said that under the proposed changes children born in Australia to non-permanent residents will lose the entitlement to citizenship at age 10 if:

they have ever been present in Australia as an unlawful non-citizen,they have ever left Australia without a visa to return, oreither parent did not hold a substantive visa at the time of their birth.

“This means that children born to people who have overstayed visas, or who have entered Australia seeking asylum, will lose their automatic entitlement to Australian citizenship,” she said.

According to the government, more than 30,000 “illegal maritime arrivals” came to Australia by boat in the years leading up to 2013, and many remain in the community.

“Children affected by the changes may still be able to make an application for citizenship, but if they are not successful they may be vulnerable to statelessness,” Dr Pillai said.

“There is a particular risk of this for children of asylum seekers, who are unlikely to be entitled to the citizenship of any foreign country.”

Mr Dutton stated on Thursday the bill “will not affect access to citizenship by children born in Australia to New Zealand citizens or children who are stateless”, but it is unclear how the measures could apply in cases where a family with a child born in Australia is sent to another country.

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Dr Joyce Chia, Director of Policy at the Refugee Council of Australia, was less concerned about the amendments affecting children. She said there were circumstances even now where a person born in Australia can remain stateless, but the current bill is unlikely to make “any real difference” to the situation.

Instead, she highlighted that the bill gave the Minister “extraordinary powers”, including the power to determine what is ‘competent English’, to determine when a person is able to sit a citizenship test, and to reverse decisions of an independent merits review tribunal. 

Law Council of Australia President, Fiona McLeod SC said the expansion of the Minister’s power to overrule independent citizenship decisions made by the AAT is “a disproportionate response that weakens crucial checks and balances.”

“This new legislation effectively allows the Minister to override citizenship decisions or to render his own decisions unreviewable.”

Dr Pillai also expressed concern that the Minister now has the power to revoke citizenship in cases of misrepresentation.

“For instance, it is possible where the Minister considers that a person has failed to act in accordance with the values tested for in the revised citizenship test, this may form the basis for citizenship revocation,” she said.

The government flagged the changes in an announcement in April, but only revealed the full text of the proposal on Thursday.

The Labor Party will meet on Tuesday to decide whether it will support the government’s proposal.

Watch: PM announces new Citizenship Rules

0:00 PM announces new Citizenship Rules Share PM announces new Citizenship Rules

Major parties throw stones on China links

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has questioned whether a previous Labor government’s decision to pull out of a security dialogue with the US, India and Japan in 2008 was influenced by former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s links to China.

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In a blistering attack during question time, Ms Bishop queried whether Mr Fitzgibbon had a role in the “extraordinary about-face” on an important foreign policy position.

Australia withdrew from a four-country security dialogue in 2008 under then prime minister Kevin Rudd, who feared the grouping would upset Beijing.

Mr Fitzgibbon was forced to resign as defence minister in 2009 for failing to disclose gifts from Chinese businesswoman Helen Liu.

Ms Bishop also pointed out inconsistencies between his media statements to Fairfax and a sworn affidavit to the ACT Supreme Court, over whether he had written to Chinese officials.

“What is it? No correspondence with Chinese officials or letter after letter?” Ms Bishop said.

Mr Fitzgibbon later hit back saying there had been no accusations of wrongdoing or impropriety in the Fairfax report.

Her focus on Mr Fitzgibbon followed ongoing scrutiny this week of his colleague Sam Dastyari, who resigned from the frontbench last year after a Chinese donor paid a travel bill for him.

Ms Bishop faced a counter-attack from Labor about her appearance in photos with Chinese businesswoman Sally Zou, who is owner of the resources company AusGold and is a major donor to the Liberal party, contributing more than $400,000 between December 2015 and June 2006.

Ms Zou set up a company under the name Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation Pty Ltd in April 2016, but shortened it to Glorious Foundation soon after. Ms Bishop has denied knowledge of the venture.

Meanwhile, China’s ambassador has taken aim at the ABC, accusing the national broadcaster of recycling groundless and fabricated allegations about his country’s influence in Australian politics.

“In Chinese, we call it cooking up the overnight cold rice. It means repeating the same old stock again and again,” Cheng Jingye told an Australia-China networking event at Parliament House on Thursday.

An ABC/Fairfax report – titled The Power and Influence of China – alleges links between Beijing and two wealthy Chinese businessmen who have made donations to Australia’s major political parties.

Mr Cheng dismissed the report as politically motivated.

“Those who have fabricated those allegations really have an imagination which is wild and morbid,” he said.

“If they were to apply their imagination to scientific research they might be accorded with a Nobel prize someday. Who knows?”

Their main purpose, as the ambassador saw it, was to instigate “China panic”.

Australia ignoring border dispute: Timor MPs

Australia took advantage of East Timor’s weakness and is now dodging its international obligations over the disputed marine border, a Timorese MP says.

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During a special session of parliament in Dili on Thursday, the heads of all four major political parties entreated Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove to ask the Australian government to come to the negotiating table over the disputed marine border between the countries.

Since 2002 there has been uncertainty over the exact parameters of the border because Australia is ignoring the issue, said Natalino dos Santos Nascimento, of the CNRT party.

“The Australian government did everything to prevent an agreement for the sea and made sure we had no other choice than to accept their proposal,” he said via an interpreter.

“That was a very difficult choice for us because we were a very weak country; we had no assistance from experts on oil issues, no legal expertise to analyse the process of this agreement … The Australian government knew and took advantage of our weaknesses.”

Aniceto Guterres from Fretilin said Australia’s unwillingness to renegotiate showed its position on the border is weak.

“We just ask our neighbour Australia to respect our rights according to international law,” he said.

“We hope with our beautiful friendship we won’t just be speaking words into the wind, we hope that people will hear us.”

The Governor-General said Australia wanted to focus on close ties in the future.

“It’s not always easy, it’s not always simple… Like all friends, we have our differences,” he said.

Since signing the 2006 treaty, East Timor “has accrued significant sovereign wealth in your petroleum fund” which would provide for future generations, he said.

“Australia is known as a fair and pragmatic country, we will continue to seek fair and pragmatic solutions to resolve our differences … Our people stand together.”

THE MARINE BORDER DISPUTE:

* Timor-Leste and Australia signed treaties in 2002 and 2006 as provisional arrangements regarding the marine border, across which sit the Greater Sunrise underwater oil and gas fields

* Australia originally received more than 80% of revenues which has been revised to a more equitable split

* East Timor wants to negotiate a formal marine border with a median line split, but Australia has so far not agreed to enter into formal talks

* East Timor is the only country with which Australia is yet to negotiate a marine border

* The lucrative refining of the oil and gas is done in Australia

* In 2013 East Timor took Australia to the international court, alleging that Australian spies bugged its cabinet room to eavesdrop on deliberations about Greater Sunrise

* It says that since independence it has lost about $US5 billion in royalties and tax revenue due to the border division, equivalent to about three years of the national budget.

NSW govt whip resigns over fuel bill

Liberal MLC Peter Phelps has resigned as NSW upper house whip in opposition to the government’s controversial ethanol mandate legislation.

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Mr Phelps resigned in order to cross the floor to vote against the laws, describing the bill as a fundamental attack on small business.

The Biofuels Amendment Bill 2016 will force small petrol retailers to sell an ethanol blend, potentially driving up the price of petrol by up to 8c a litre.

“This bill … which criminalises people for the purchasing decisions of their customers, is such an egregious breach of the core values of the Liberal Party that I cannot support it,” Mr Phelps said during a fiery speech to parliament.

He said there were many times he had to “whore out his principles” for his job as government whip but he would be resigning effective immediately on Tuesday so he could cross the floor to oppose the legislation.

The bill is expected to require smaller retailers that sell three or more types of automotive fuel to sell E10 for the first time to reach a six per cent mandate.

NSW has never reached the mandate and currently only two per cent of fuel sales in the state are ethanol.

Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Victor Dominello has said the legislation is not meant to hurt small business owners, and retailers owning fewer than 20 sites will be exempt.

Two other Liberal MPs, Matthew Mason Cox and Scott Farlow, also voiced their opposition to the bill in parliament on Tuesday but said they would support it.

Labor has indicated it will pass the legislation but the Greens have opposed it, with Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham describing it as “entirely rotten”.

Jakarta chaos as taxi drivers protest ride apps Uber, Grab

Thousands of cabbies have shut down a major road in Indonesia’s capital and launched attacks on other drivers as part of a protest against ride-hailing apps like Uber and Grab.

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Traffic jams sprouted up in parts of Jakarta on Tuesday as taxi drivers took to the streets to protest against Uber, Grab and the motorbike service Go-Jek.

The busy arterial road Jalan Sudirman was closed down for a time, as taxi drivers blocked the bus lane.

A stone-throwing fight then broke out between cabbies and motorbike taxi drivers, known locally as “ojek” riders.

This was in retaliation for a reported attack on an ojek rider by a taxi driver, a witness told AAP.

Even the brightly coloured blue, three-wheeled vehicles known as a “bajaj” were not safe with taxi drivers believed to have overturned one and smashed its front mirror.

Another Indonesia wtf moment: Jakarta taxi drivers protesting against Uber, Grab target non-striking colleagues. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/RHZffipDkE

— Bryce Green (@brycewg) March 22, 2016

Taxi driver Aris told AAP he wanted online taxi services to be banned as they had cut his income dramatically.

“I used to get 200,000 to 300,000 rupiah ($A30) a day but now 50,000 is like a blessing,” the 30-year-old said.

Aris, who has been working for Express Taxi for almost 10 years, said the protest was an “act of solidarity” among taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers have complained of the increasing competition from the likes of ride-hailing giant Uber whose drivers, they say, do not face the same costs and rules.

Australians warned over protests

Australia has issued a travel warning for Indonesia following the protests.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised travellers to exercise a “high degree of caution” across Indonesia, including Bali, as a protest in Jakarta shut down a major arterial road on Tuesday.

“There are reports that some passengers have been forced to disembark from passing taxis and other forms of public transport,” DFAT warned on Tuesday.

“Travellers are reminded that demonstrations and rallies can turn violent with little notice.”

Taxi drivers have amassed outside Parliament House in the capital as they took to the streets in protest of the popular apps Uber and the motorbike service Gojek.

RelatedTaxi drivers turn against each other in strange twist to Jakarta’s transportation drama 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/DaONyZu4Zp pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/Fx8wpJeyJE

— Tech in Asia (@techinasia) March 22, 2016

Jakarta police Chief Detective Krishna Murti said he was supervising the protest and warned those involved not to let it get out of hand.

“Protest, go ahead. But don’t cause traffic jam! And then don’t do anarchy. If you’re bad, I’ll arrest you,” he told local website Detik.

Fighter jet a ‘jackass of all trades’

The company building Australia’s next-generation fighter planes says it would be naive to pretend there aren’t problems with the fleet.

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But air force chiefs are confident the controversial F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighters are the best the Department of Defence can get.

Australia is spending $17.1 billion to acquire 72 of the Lockheed Martin planes by 2023.

But they’ve been dismissed as an expensive flop with the jets facing difficulties including pilot visibility issues, stealth coatings peeling off, an inability to fly during lightning storms due to the risk of exploding, and software problems.

A report by the Pentagon’s top weapons tester has also raised doubts about its capabilities, including software and engineering deficiencies.

Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program general manager, says nothing in that report was a surprise to his team.

However, that didn’t mean they weren’t doing anything about it.

“When you look at any program this complex … to assert there would be no problems would be naive,” he told a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday.

“This is an amazing plane – I have high confidence that we’ll solve these problems as we have in the past.”

The defence department appears content too, saying the jets are their best and only option.

Air force chief Leo Davies said the planes had significant advantages over the F18s.

“I have no concerns that would have me come to a conclusion that the transition … will not occur on time,” he said.

Chris Deeble, the force’s former program manager, acknowledged some risks existed in the training system, including maintenance.

Independent military and policy think tank Air Power Australia was dismissive of the plan, saying “blue sky marketing” was overshadowing major problems with the aircraft.

“It has all the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme,” head Peter Goon said.

“When the product fails recruit as many clients as you can, promote the product as loudly as you can, keep the cash flowing for as long as the market remains blind to its failure.”

The aircraft was also a risk to the ANZUS alliance – Australia’s security pact with the US.

Mr Goon described the aircraft’s computer system as a “digital dog leash”.

Retired wing commander Chris Mills insists Australia will never achieve regional air superiority with the F-35, describing it as a “jackass of all trades and masterful of none”.

The Sir Richard Williams Foundation took an opposing view, saying the aircraft was unique, revolutionary and represented a generational change.

Former RAAF chief Errol J McCormack said the F-35 was the only viable candidate that would meet the full range of Australia’s air superiority needs in 2025 and beyond.

But he admitted Lockheed Martin gave thousands of dollars in sponsorship to fund his organisation’s seminars.

Black Caviar’s trainer Moody exits racing

High-profile trainer Peter Moody walks away from racing without a Melbourne Cup but with a Black Caviar.

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The unbeaten champion sprinter brought Moody international acclaim.

Yet, at 46, Moody has pulled the pin on his training career.

“I’m over it,” he declared after an 18-month saga over cobalt that has been both financially and personally draining.

Moody beat the most serious cobalt charge: administering a prohibited substance to affect a racehorse’s performance.

He initially vowed to return after being outed for six months on lesser charges over Lidari’s cobalt reading after his second in the 2014 Group One Turnbull Stakes, which the trainer’s camp blamed on an oral hoof treatment.

Moody has now decided to wind up his 300-horse training operation, believing he is doing it on his own terms.

“For the fact that I can walk away confidently and know that I’ve been judged not to be a cheat has made that decision somewhat easier,” he told reporters at his Caulfield stable on Tuesday.

Moody maintains the cobalt saga affecting a number of trainers has been blown out of proportion.

“Unfortunately due to the deeds of probably the great mare Black Caviar, I’ve probably become unfortunately the public face of it and I didn’t want that to continue,” he said.

Moody said no one else was to blame and he was no longer bitter, but still believed he did nothing wrong.

“I’m still disappointed that I was penalised in any way, shape or form because I don’t believe I did any wrong,” he said.

“If anything the practices within my workplace mightn’t have been up to scratch and they may have become lax and it cost me. But is that any reason to take a person’s livelihood away from them?”

Moody has trained five of the last six Australian Racehorses of the Year and about 2500 winners, including 53 at the top Group One level, but he said the quality of horses dropped significantly during the cobalt saga and he was unable to attract new business.

Moody does want some sort of future in the racing industry.

“It’s been my lifeline and my livelihood probably since I’ve been about 10 years old,” he said.

“Maybe in three or four months’ time if anyone’s looking for an unemployed 46-year-old racehorse trainer that doesn’t know how to do anything else, maybe give me a yell. I’ll be looking for a job.”

Moody never won one of Australian racing’s “big four”: a Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate or a Golden Slipper.

That Moody can say he has no regrets is down to Black Caviar, “the thing dreams are made of”.

Moody had a quick answer when one of his daughters made a crack about Bart Cummings’ 12 Melbourne Cup wins before the legendary trainer’s death: “He’s never trained the best horse in the world that’s undefeated either, darling, so ask him that.”