Qld MP criticised for use of privilege

Senior members of the Queensland government have slammed an independent MP who attacked the Ipswich City Council under the protection of parliamentary privilege.

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A document tabled by Cairns member Rob Pyne on Wednesday flagged former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale’s alleged links with developers and possible conflicts of interest involving councillors and staff.

By making the allegations in parliament, Mr Pyne is protected from a possible defamation action.

His actions drew strong criticism on Thursday from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Treasurer Curtis Pitt and Attorney General Yvette D’Ath.

“If you put forward those sorts of allegations with the protection of privilege you need to make sure you can substantiate those allegations, because, privilege or not, it does reflect on individuals,” Ms D’Ath said.

Mr Pitt said parliamentary privilege gave members the opportunity to raise matters of serious significance to the public, a measure that should only be used where claims were supported by clear evidence.

“I haven’t seen anything that says there was a great deal of credible evidence behind that, but that is a question for Mr Pyne,” he said.

Ms Palaszczuk encouraged Mr Pyne to make his allegations to the Crime and Corruption Commission, which is currently investigating the 2016 Ipswich, Moreton Bay, Logan and Gold Cold council elections.

Mr Pisasale served as mayor for 13 years prior to his resignation earlier this month, citing ill health, a day after the CCC raided his offices.

His resignation came after he was found with a bag carrying $50,000 in cash at Melbourne Airport, which his friend and barrister Sam Di Carlo said was for his client.

Acting Ipswich Mayor Paul Tully challenged Mr Pyne to repeat the accusations outside out of parliament, name his source and to either apologise or resign.

“I will be making a complaint to the Speaker asking him to apologise to the people he has defamed,” Mr Tully said.

Mr Pyne’s tabled document makes dozens of accusations against Mr Pisasale, Mr Tully and others, including the running of several development companies owned by the Ipswich City Council.

“The boards of these companies are made up of Mayor Paul Pisasale, Cr Paul Tully, Cr Andrew Antoniolli, CEO Jim Lindsay and the CFO,” the document says.

“It is unknown if they take directors fees, meeting allowances and expenses, etc but it is known that they have travelled overseas extensively under the guise of these companies travelling first class and sometimes hiring private jets.”

He went on to claim under parliamentary privilege that council planners feel unable to refuse development applications put forward by the companies.

Mr Pyne was elected as a Labor MP at the 2015 election but quit the party last year to sit on the crossbench.

‘Jobs and growth’ more than a slogan: PM

Malcolm Turnbull insists the jobless rate falling to a four-year low shows the coalition’s “jobs and growth” election mantra was not just a slogan.

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“I tell you what … it’s an outcome,” a clearly buoyant prime minister told parliament on Thursday.

New figures on Thursday showed 42,000 people joined the workforce in May, four times as many expected by economists.

The 52,100 new full-time jobs were partly offset by a 10,100 drop in part-time workers.

As a result, the unemployment rate dropped from 5.7 per cent in April to 5.5 per cent – its lowest level since February 2013.

The unemployment rate has fallen from 5.9 per cent in two months.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash also noted a slight pick-up in the participation rate.

“What that says is Australians are putting their hands up and saying ‘I am looking for work, I’m ready willing and able,” she told reporters.

Labor employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor welcomed the fall in unemployment but noted there were still more people out of work than when the coalition came to power in 2013.

There are also still many people considered as underemployed.

“(A total of) 1.1 million Australians are desperately looking for more work and cannot find it,” Mr O’Connor told reporters

“That’s why people are struggling to make ends meet.”

The underemployment rate at 8.8 per cent was only a shade below the record 8.9 per cent set in February.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has recorded 140,000 people having found a job in the past three months.

“While there has been some doubts about the accuracy of the ABS employment data in recent months we think that the fact that we have had three very solid outcomes is a good sign that conditions have firmed,” Commonwealth Bank economist Kristina Clifton said.

A separate report found manufacturers are capping off an improved performance this financial year but rising energy costs are taking their toll.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Westpac survey of industrial trends for the June quarter showed its composite index rising a further 1.8 points to an above par 65, extending the rebound from a dip to 55.1 a year ago and just prior to the federal election.

Westpac senior economist Andrew Hanlan said state infrastructure spending, stronger world growth, spill-overs from mining and agriculture and a low Australian dollar have all helped to buoy the sector.

Even so, there were some negatives, including rising energy costs.

ACCI boss James Pearson said the Finkel review offers a blueprint for Australia’s energy future.

“Now we need politicians of all sides to set aside ideological baggage and reach an agreement that provides certainty for the future,” he said.

London Bridge trio final moments revealed

The final moments of pedestrians mown down by terrorists in the London Bridge attack have been revealed at the inquests into their deaths.

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A white van ploughed into people on the bridge before three killers carrying out a frenzied knife attack in Borough Market, leaving eight dead and dozens injured.

Christine Archibald, 30, Xavier Thomas, 45, and Alexandre Pigeard, 26, died in the attack on June 3, Southwark Coroner’s Court was told.

Senior coroner Andrew Harris opened and adjourned inquests on Wednesday for the three victims.

He thanked the police for their work in “difficult and distressing circumstances” and offered his condolences to the families for their “sudden and shocking loss”.

“A white van travelled south on London Bridge. That van would seem to have been deliberately targeting pedestrians as it travelled towards Borough Market,” Detective Chief Inspector Simon Moring said.

“The occupants of that van are known to have alighted and were stabbing members of the public.”

Canadian Archibald, who lived in The Hague, Holland, died in her fiance Tyler Ferguson’s arms after being struck by the van on London Bridge.

The social worker was killed by multiple, severe blunt crush injuries, the inquest was told.

French national Thomas’s body was recovered from the river near Limehouse in east London, downstream of London Bridge, three days after the attack.

He was visiting London for the weekend with his girlfriend, Christine Delcros, who was struck and seriously injured in the attack.

He was last seen by her on the bridge and police are still investigating how he ended up in the water.

Thomas, a business events and travel manager living in Paris, was identified by his dental records and his cause of death was given as immersion.

Fellow Frenchman Pigeard was knifed moments later in the nearby Boro Bistro, where he worked as a waiter.

He was found in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral, on Montague Close, with stab wounds to his neck and chest.

Pigeard was born in Paris, had been in London for around two years and lived in Southwark.

His cause of death was given as a haemorrhage caused by knife wounds.

Armed police killed ringleader Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, just eight minutes after the first emergency call was made.

A hearing took place on Tuesday into the deaths of Australians Sara Zelenak, 21, and Kirsty Boden, 28, along with Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39.

A grim account of their injuries was read out, detailing where they had been found and how they were identified.

The inquest proceedings were suspended so the vast police operation was not hampered by his investigation.

Manus detainees in limbo despite compo win

More than 800 men still detained on Manus Island are frustrated and angry that they remain in limbo despite getting a share of $70 million in compensation, a lawyer says.

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The Australian government and operators of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre have settled a class action by 1905 current and former detainees for $70 million, plus about $20 million in costs.

A lawyer involved in a separate legal action in Papua New Guinea that may now be withdrawn says the settlement does not change the pressing issue of what happens to the detainees when the Manus centre closes in October.

Greg Toop says the men are in effect still in limbo about their future.

“They really are getting frustrated and angry about things,” Mr Toop told AAP on Thursday.

“A lot of them haven’t got anywhere to go.”

Mr Toop and PNG lawyer Ben Lomai are considering withdrawing their false imprisonment claim against the PNG government so that their clients, who number up to 1000, can receive compensation through the settled Slater and Gordon class action.

Mr Toop said what happens to the approximately 830 men who remain on Manus must still be addressed.

“The money itself is only part of the solution,” he said.

He believed the PNG government genuinely wanted to find a solution, but its hands were tied to a certain extent because the Australian government maintains detainees in Manus and Nauru will not be settled in Australia.

Mr Toop said the United Nations refugee agency must become actively involved.

“They have to start interviewing the detainees and they have to start offering some kind of tangible alternative where they could be resettled.”

Up to 1250 of the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru are expected to be offered resettlement under Australia’s deal with the United States.

About 70 of the Manus detainees have undergone medical examinations and up to 400 have been interviewed as part of the vetting process, Mr Toop said.

“We’re hoping, of course, that will progress as an alternative but it won’t take everybody, and they’re the issues which we need to look at.”

Most of the detainees will not accept resettlement in PNG, he said.

Mr Toop and Mr Lomai had estimated their clients could receive as much as $150 million for false imprisonment after the PNG Supreme Court ruled their detention was illegal.

Most of the $70 million compensation deal is for false imprisonment and tied to the length of time spent in detention, although the class action also claimed damages for physical and psychological injuries linked to the conditions on Manus.

Mr Toop said while the settlement was not in the same range they had predicted, it was a significant amount and the detainees were happy with the outcome.

“The overwhelming view was that, if you like, the guilty party was the Australian government.

“To get that settlement against the Australian government has more impact in their eyes than what we can do with respect to the PNG government.”

The case is due back in the PNG Supreme Court on Monday.

Creditors to meet on Ten’s future

Creditors of the embattled Ten Network will meet for the first time with administrators in Sydney within a fortnight as takeover rumblings continue around the broadcaster.

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Speculation has centred on billionaire shareholders Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon as possible buyers of Ten if it goes into liquidation, while a new analyst report has slashed the broadcaster’s fair value estimate to zero.

Creditors of Ten will meet at the Sofitel Hotel in Sydney on Monday, June 26, to discuss the network’s future.

Ten went into voluntary administration on Wednesday after Mr Murdoch and Mr Gordon, who respectively hold 7.7 per cent and 15 per cent of Ten, declined to extend their current guarantee on the network’s $200m debt facility to a new, $250m facility needed by December.

Letters released on the ASX show Mr Murdoch and Mr Gordon, who own their Ten stakes through their respective private investment companies Illyria and Birketu, have now combined their voting power and are working together on a plan to restructure or repay Ten’s debt.

In the event of a default by Ten, Birketu and Illyria risk “significant liability”, a June 9 letter from Birketu to Illyria director Siobhan McKenna says.

The letter, which predates the voluntary administration, states Birketu and Illyria “have agreed to work together exclusively to facilitate the potential formulation, negotiation and implementation of a restructure proposal”.

With the fall of Ten renewing the focus on Australian media ownership laws, the Birketu letter states “for the avoidance of doubt,” that there is no proposal from Birketu or Illyria to make a takeover bid for Ten.

Speculation remains, however, that Mr Gordon or Mr Murdoch may be bidders for Ten if it goes into liquidation, while the administrator is investigating options for refinancing or a sale of the business.

With shares in Ten suspended from official quotation, following a trading halt on Tuesday, Morningstar senior equity analyst Brian Han said the voluntary administration had cut his estimate of Ten’s fair value to zero.

Mr Han said Morningstar’s previous fair value estimate of 30 cents, which already incorporated a 50 per cent probability that the group would fail to refinance, had been “obliterated” by the arrival of administrators.

“It is now clear that we have been too optimistic even with that assessment,” Mr Han said in a note, Thursday.

“The development obliterated our previous view that improving ratings and revenue share trends may have given Ten a chance of convincing the lender/guarantors to extend the credit lifeline.”

Mr Han added that Ten’s current shareholders are now unlikely to recoup any remaining investments in the group.

Despite Ten claiming on Wednesday it had identified savings and other items that would add $50 million to earnings in 2017/18 and more than $80 million in 2018/19, the broadcaster was unable to convince the facility lender roll over the loan without any guarantor support.

Administrator KordaMentha has promised business as usual at Channel Ten while it canvasses refinance or sale options.

“The administrators are confident that the network is an attractive asset which will find a buyer or will be recapitalised,” KordaMentha partner, Mark Korda said on Wednesday.

Ten shares are suspended from the ASX and were at 16 cents before entering a trading halt on Tuesday.