Former NSW minister Ian Macdonald walks from jail ahead of a retrial

Former NSW minister Ian Macdonald walks from jail ahead of a retrial

Ian Macdonald outside the supreme court at his trial in 2017. The former Labor minister has successfully appealed his conviction for misconduct in public office. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Former Labor minister Ian Macdonald maintains he’s “absolutely” innocent after a New South Wales appeal court quashed his conviction for misconduct in public office and he walked from jail ahead of a retrial.

The former ALP politician had been in custody since 2017, when he was jailed for 10 years – with a minimum term of seven years – after being found guilty of two counts of wilful misconduct in public office.

But five Court of Criminal Appeal judges on Monday quashed the 69-year-old’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

Ian Macdonald, former NSW minister, sentenced to 10 years for misconduct in public office

They did the same for former union boss John Maitland – who was jailed for six years with four years non-parole – on two charges of being an accessory to the alleged misconduct.

“Today is about being grateful to my family and friends who have stuck by me through this long period,” Macdonald told reporters outside Long Bay jail.

He called for an immediate inquiry into several matters investigated by the state’s anti-corruption watchdog Icac before he was prosecuted.

“There was much in the way of exculpatory evidence that was hidden from the original inquiry which has set the scene, I believe, for a long period of victimisation that I have experienced in the media,” Macdonald said.

When asked if he maintained his innocence, the ex-minister replied “absolutely”.

Macdonald was alleged to have favoured the interest of Doyles Creek Mining, chaired by Maitland, over the interests of the state when he granted a Hunter Valley coal exploration licence in 2008 without a competitive tender.

However, the appeal judges on Monday found the jury was misdirected at trial on the state-of-mind element of the offence.

Jurors should have been directed that Macdonald could only be found guilty if he wouldn’t have granted consent to apply for the licence, and granted the licence itself, except for the illegitimate purpose to benefit Maitland and DCM, the appeal court held.

His lawyer, Phillip Boulton SC, wasted no time applying for bail in the NSW supreme court and it was granted by Justice Natalie Adams.

Under his bail, Macdonald will have to reside in the Blue Mountains, report to police weekly, not approach any international departure points or contact prosecution witnesses except through his lawyer.

Maitland, 72, who was also granted bail, will reside in Sydney’s eastern suburbs but otherwise faces similar conditions.

After the appeal judgment, premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters she hadn’t kept up with the news “but I’ll look at that to see if there’s any further action the state will take”.

Their matters will next be in court on Friday.

In sentencing Macdonald, Justice Christine Adamson had described his conduct as “devious” and “extremely serious”.

“By granting consent to Doyles Creek Mining … Macdonald was guilty of gross breaches of the trust that parliament placed in him.”

Macdonald was the second former minister of the previous state Labor government to be jailed, with former resources minister Eddie Obeid sentenced to five years imprisonment in 2016 for misconduct in office.

The decision comes less than four weeks from the NSW election on 23 March.


Australian fashion brand workers earning 51 cents an hour, Oxfam reports

Australian fashion brand workers earning 51 cents an hour, Oxfam reports

Bangladeshi garment worker Shima, 26, at home in Dhaka. She lost her foot to infection and now wears a prosthetic. An Oxfam report found many women who work for Australian brands are unable to feed their families or get treatment when ill. Photograph: Fabeha Monir/OxfamAUS

Women in Bangladesh and Vietnam making clothes for the $23bn Australian fashion industry are going hungry because of wages as low as 51 cents an hour, an Oxfam report has found.

The aid group interviewed 470 garment workers employed at factories supplying brands such as Big W, Kmart, Target and Cotton On, and found 100% of surveyed workers in Bangladesh and 74% in Vietnam could not make ends meet.

“The investigation has uncovered the widespread payment of poverty wages and the impact this is having on the lives of the workers, mainly women, making the clothes Australians love to wear,” Oxfam Australia chief, Helen Szoke, said.

Australian clothing brands won’t commit to garment workers’ safety

“Women who are unable to get treatment when they fall sick, workers who cannot afford to send their children to school, families that cannot make their pay stretch to put enough food on the table, people sleeping on floors in overcrowded houses, spiralling debts, mothers separated from their children – these are just some of the common realities of the failure of big brands to ensure the payment of living wages.”

Garment workers on their way to work in Dhaka. Of workers surveyed by Oxfam in Bangladesh, 100% said they could not make ends meet. Photograph: Fabeha Monir/Oxfam Australia

Nine out of 10 workers interviewed in Bangladesh said they could not afford enough food for themselves and their families and were forced to skip meals or go into debt. In the same country 72% of workers interviewed could not afford medical treatment, compared with 53% in Vietnam. In Bangladesh, one in three workers interviewed was separated from their children because of inadequate income.

The report details the plight of a Bangladeshi 21-year-old single mother, Tania, who works up to 12 hours a day in a factory supplying clothes to brands including Kmart and earns $169 a month, or about 55 cents an hour.

She was forced to send her baby back to her village to be cared for by her parents and sees her daughter only twice a year.

Bangladeshi garment worker Tania holds the only photograph she has of her daughter, who she only sees twice a year. Photograph: Fabeha Monir/OxfamAUS

Another worker profiled, Chameli, earns about 51 cents an hour for her work as a helper in a factory in Bangladesh that supplies clothes to brands including Big W. Her family cannot afford to send any of her three daughters to school and the eldest, aged 14, has also started working in a garment factory.

The family of five live in a crowded compound on the outskirts of Dhaka in a 3.6 metre by 2.4 metre room, where the two youngest girls sleep on the floor.

Chameli and her daughters live in a 3.6 metre by 2.4 metre room in Dhaka. Photograph: Fabeha Monir/OxfamAUS

Deloitte Access Economics estimates that on average just 4% of the price of a piece of clothing sold in Australia goes towards the wages of the workers who made it. 

Oxfam said if brands absorbed the cost of paying a living wage, it would amount to less than 1% of the garment price.

The research found practices by Australian companies were contributing to driving wages down.

Bangladesh strikes: thousands of garment workers clash with police over poor pay

“They undertake fierce price negotiation, often jump between contracts instead of working with factories over the long term, squeeze lead times for orders and operate with a separation between their ethical and standards staff and their buying teams, who negotiate directly with factories,” the report said.

“One factory owner even reported the extensive measures a company had taken to keep their clothing safe in case of a fire, but a lack of interest from the very same company in fire safety measures for the workspaces where people sew their clothes.”

Szoke said Oxfam was not advocating boycotts of brands, but encouraged shoppers to contact fashion retailers via social media to demand living wages for garment workers.

Cotton On, Kmart, Target and City Chic have recently announced plans to achieve a living wage for the workers in their supply chains.

North Korea still remains nuclear threat: Pompeo

North Korea still remains nuclear threat: Pompeo

Mike Pompeo (Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that North Korea still remained a threat, a reversal to President Donald Trump’s remark that Pyongyang was no longer a nuclear threat to Washington.

When asked during a CNN interview on Sunday night if North Korea still remained a nuclear threat, Pompeo replied “yes”.

“What he (Trump) said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore – this commitment that Chairman Kim (Jong-un) made – have substantially taken down the risk to the American people. It’s the mission of the Secretary of State and the President of the US to keep American people secure. We’re aiming to achieve that,” he added.

In June, Trump, having just returned to Washington from the first historic summit with Kim in Singapore, tweeted: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Trump is set to meet Kim for a second summit on Wednesday and Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Pompeo told CNN that Trump is focused on getting “a demonstrable, verifiable” step toward denuclearization during the summit.

“There are many things he could do to demonstrate his commitment to denuclearization,” Pompeo said.

The Secretary of State also said that core sanctions from the UN Security Council resolution on North Korea will be removed only after it fully denuclearizes, adding that the administration’s standard for removing sanctions has always been “full, verified denuclearization”.

Two men charged with murder after stabbing of man in south London

Two men charged with murder after stabbing of man in south London

Lejean Richards of Battersea, was found by police on Tuesday evening. Photograph: PA

Two men have been charged with the murder of a 19-year-old man who was stabbed to death in Battersea, south-west London.

Lejean Richards was pronounced dead at the scene on 5 February despite the efforts of paramedics after being knifed in the chest.

Roy Reyes-Nieves, 23, of Battersea and Roger Reyes-Nieves, 18, of West Norwood in south-east London were charged with his murder after being arrested on Saturday.

The pair will appear in custody at Bromley magistrates court on Monday.

The Metropolitan police had previously said they believe Lejean, a pizza delivery driver, was attacked by a group during an altercation involving up to six people and were “keeping an open mind” about the motive.

Fatal stabbings in England and Wales have reached their highest level since records began more than 70 years ago, figures released earlier this month showed.

In addition the homicide rate rose by 15% in one year, according to data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and crimes recorded by the police.

Between March 2017 and 2018, 285 killings were carried out with a knife or sharp instrument, the highest number since Home Office records began in 1946.

The rates marked the fourth consecutive annual rise in homicides following a long-term decline.

No relief for Sharif as Pak court rejects bail plea in corruption case

No relief for Sharif as Pak court rejects bail plea in corruption case

Nawaz Sharif. Reuters file

Islamabad, February 25

A court in Pakistan rejected the bail application of deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday, refusing to grant him relief on medical grounds in a corruption case.

The reasons will be given in a detailed judgment to be issued later.Sharif, 69, has been serving a seven-year jail term in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case.

The Islamabad High Court’s two-member bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani announced that the bail application was “dismissed”.Several leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former foreign minister Khawaja Asif, were present in the court when the verdict was announced.

“We are disappointed by the decision because different panels diagnosed the disease (of Sharif) and recommended treatment. But we accept the verdict and will explore more fora to get a remedy,” Abbasi told reporters after the verdict.

Asif said “we will go for appeal against the verdict” which would be filed in the Supreme Court.

Dozens of PML-N supporters were also present outside the court premises and raised slogans against the verdict.

Sharif was sentenced to seven years in jail on December 24 by an Islamabad-based Accountability Court and was sent to Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore to serve the sentence.

Last month, he filed the bail application through his counsel Khawaja Haris for bail on medical reasons as he developed heart-related medical complications in jail.

Last week, the court heard the counsel and lawyers of the anti-corruption body National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and reserved the verdict for Fenruary 25.

Additional police and paramilitary personnel were deployed around the court to maintain law and order.

Meanwhile, Sharif is being treated at the Jinnah Hospital in Lahore, where he was shifted a few weeks ago.

The Al-Azizia Steel Mill case was about setting up steel mills in Saudi Arabia with ill-gotten gains.

Three corruption cases–Avenfield properties, Flagship investment and Al-Azizia steel mills–were registered against the Sharif family by the National Accountability Bureau in 2017 following a judgment by the Supreme Court that disqualified Sharif in the Panama Papers case in 2017.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the Avenfiled case in July 2018 which was related to his properties in London. Later, he was given bail in September.

The accountability court on December 24 convicted him in the Al-Azizia case but acquitted him in the Flagship reference.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were also convicted and sent to jail in the Avenfield case but granted bail along with Sharif.

His two sons–Hasan and Hussain–were named in all the three cases but never appeared before the court after which they were declared fugitives. PTI

Controversy over kids being taught about gay and trans relationships

Primary schoolchildren from the age of five are set to receive compulsory lessons about gay and trans relationships.

The new guidelines, set to be published tomorrow, also ban parents from opting their kids out of sex education in secondary school, The Sun reports.

Head teachers will be ordered to bring in the new classes when they are rolled out nationally next year after consultation by the UK Department of Education.

Controversy over kids being taught about gay and trans relationships

Primary students from as young as five will receive the compulsory lessons. Picture: istockSource:istock

The paper says primary schoolchildren will learn about same-sex and trans families.

And pupils will also be taught about staying safe online — and developing “healthy, respectful relationships”.

Meanwhile, secondary schoolchildren will receive at least one compulsory term of sex ed lessons by the time they are 16.

These classes will also include lessons on the “catastrophic” damage caused by female genital mutilation.

Sexting, online grooming, domestic violence and forced marriage will also be covered in class.

The new curriculum is being brought in on the orders of education secretary Damian Hinds.

But the move faces a backlash from religious groups who have been vocally opposed to teaching about same-sex and trans issues in schools.

Earlier this month, Muslim parents in Birmingham held a primary school-gates protest over lessons on homosexuality and gender.

Parents will be banned from opting their kids out of sexual eduction classes in secondary school.Source:Supplied

They accused a gay assistant head teacher of promoting LGBT causes without their consent at Parkfield Community School.

Some mums and dads from the predominantly Muslim area said they would rather leave the country than let their children carry on with the lessons.

Children were kept out of class for the first hour of the day, with some joining in chants on the street.

They held signs reading “education not indoctrination” and “let kids be kids”.

Members of an evangelical Christian group also joined the demonstration.

Publication of the guidelines comes as a petition signed by 100,000 people objecting to the new curriculum will be debated in parliament, The Sunday Times reported.

But campaigners say the lessons are vital in combating online child sex exploitation and grooming.

Growing numbers of children think sending intimate selfies is part of a normal relationship — when it is illegal under the age of 18.

This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission

Vietnam deports Kim Jong-un impersonator

Vietnam deports Kim Jong-un impersonator

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un impersonator Howard X waves as he is being escorted by Vietnamese authorities to the airport for deportation, in Hanoi on February 25, 2019. (Photo by Manan Vatsyayana / AFP)

An impersonator of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un on Monday said Vietnamese authorities were deporting him from the country, just 24 hours before Pyongyang’s leader was expected to arrive here ahead of his summit with US President Donald Trump.

In a Facebook post, the comedian known as Howard X said three officers had escorted him to the airport in the capital, where he boarded a Singapore-bound Vietnam Airlines flight, reports Efe news.

The comedian, who is a resident of Hong Kong, was detained on Friday, where authorities told him that his visa was “invalid”.

“My real crime was looking like the President of North Korea,” the comedian said, who also published a photograph of him bidding farewell to Russell White, a Trump impersonator, whom the local authorities have allowed to remain in the country for several more days but have barred him from any public performances.

The pair kissed and hugged as they said their goodbyes at a hotel in Hanoi on Monday before Howard X was escorted to the airport.

Kim is expected to arrive on Monday or Tuesday for a state visit before the summit with Trump on Wednesday and Thursday.

In the first visit by a North Korean leader to Vietnam since the reunification of the Southeast Asian country in 1975, Kim will meet President and General Secretary of the Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong.

Howard X and White also made headlines in the run-up to the first summit in Singapore last June.

The comedian had said that Singaporean authorities had briefly detained him at the airport upon his arrival, but he was allowed to remain for the duration of the summit.

Oscar 2019: Richard E Grant impregnated Melisa McCarthy with twins, Ryan Seacrest gets trolled

Oscar 2019: Richard E Grant impregnated Melisa McCarthy with twins, Ryan Seacrest gets trolled

Richard E Grant, who was nominated for the Academy Award for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ that also stars Melissa McCarthy, is having the time of his life. This is the British actors’ first Oscar nomination and he is clearly very excited about it. And what better way to show his excitement by fooling around the red carpet.

Richard’s sense of humour took a toll, or rather troll on Ryan Seacrest, whose dumbfound interpretation to joke that the ‘Withnail and I’ actor quipped about him having a baby with Melisa McCarthy. The 44-year-old American Idol host was confused and for a second believed him that Melisa McCarthy was indeed pregnant with Richard’s twins.

“She’s having my twins in August,” Richard joked when he was asked about how did the two gel together. To which Ryan confusingly asks, “She’s what?” and Richard assures him, now just playing the card, “She’s having my twins in August.”

Hahaha @RyanSeacrest totally bamboozled by @RichardEGrant ?— Bonnie Whitfield (@Bondiddle) February 24, 2019

Now things get worse as Ryan now asks him again in complete amazement, “What do you mean?” The response from Ryan was so prompt and genuine that it was pure comedy and the world laughed on him too.

Twitter has been filled with status updates that point out how Americans are just not cut out for sarcasm and that the British are still heading that department.

“Jesus. Seacrest was EXCRUCIATING with Richard E Grant. #oscars2019,” one user said. While others pointed out how Seacrest was just not cut out for Richard’s sense of humour.

25-year-old armed hijacker shot dead by Bangladesh Army onboard Dubai-bound flight

25-year-old armed hijacker shot dead by Bangladesh Army onboard Dubai-bound flight

The hijacked Dubai-bound Bangladesh Biman plane is seen at the tarmac after an emergency landing at Chittagong airport. (AFP photo)

CHITTAGONG: Bangladesh commandos stormed a passenger jet in the country’s southeast Sunday and shot dead an armed man who allegedly tried to hijack the Dubai-bound flight, an army official said.

The suspect, described by officials as a 25-year-old Bangladeshi man, was shot as special forces rushed the plane after it landed safely in Chittagong.

The 148 passengers and crew aboard the Bangladesh Biman flight BG147 were all rescued unharmed, officials said. But the suspected hijacker was injured and died shortly after being arrested, army spokesman Major General Motiur Rahman told reporters.

“He is a Bangladeshi. We found a pistol from him and nothing else,” Rahman said.

All the passengers aboard were evacuated after the airport was sealed of by Army, Navy and elite police. Air Vice Marshall Mofid, who goes by one name, said he then kept the accused man busy talking on the phone while special forces units prepared for the dramatic raid.

“He demanded to speak to our Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina),” Mofid said. “He claimed he had a pistol, but we are not sure yet whether it is an actual gun or a fake.”

The country’s civil aviation chief, Nayeem Hasan, earlier said the suspect had claimed to have a bomb aboard the flight. “From the talks and dialogue we have with him, it seems he is psychologically deranged,” Hasan said after the man was arrested.

Another army spokesman, Abdullah Ibne Zaid, said the would-be hijacker allegedly claimed to have a gun and a bomb strapped to his chest.

“The army’s special forces conducted the operation and the armed man has been neutralized. The situation at (Chittagong’s) Shah Amanat International Airport is very much under control of the Bangladesh Army,” he said.

An investigation would be carried out to determine whether security lapses had occurred, he added. Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 165 million, has grappled with homegrown extremism, with Islamist outfits murdering atheist bloggers and progressive activists in recent years.

In a deadly attack claimed by the Islamic State group in 2016, militants killed 22 people including 18 foreigners at an upmarket cafe in Dhaka popular with Westerners. That attack prompted a swift crackdown by Prime Minister Hasina, with hundreds of suspected militants and their sympathisers arrested or killed in raids across the country.

Former US security officials to oppose emergency declaration

Former US security officials to oppose emergency declaration

A group of former U.S. national security officials is set to release a statement arguing there is no justification for President Donald Trump to use a national emergency declaration to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The statement, which was reviewed by The Associated Press, has 58 signatures from prominent former officials, including former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and John Kerry, former Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta and former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The statement is set to be released Monday, a day before the Democratic-controlled House is expected to vote to block Trump from using the declaration. The measure is sure to pass, and the GOP-run Senate may adopt it as well, though Trump has already promised a veto.

“There is no factual basis for the declaration of a national emergency,” says the statement, which argues that border crossings are near a 40-year low and that there is no terrorist emergency at the border.

Trump declared an emergency to obtain wall funding beyond the $1.4 billion Congress approved for border security. The move allows the president to bypass Congress to use money from the Pentagon and other budgets.

Trump’s edict is also being challenged in the federal courts, where a host of Democratic-led states such as California are among those that have sued to overturn Trump’s order.

Credit : Associated Press (AP) | Photo Credit : (AP)