Shorten alleges ‘political witch hunt’ after police raid AWU offices with TV crews watching on

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008px;”>Union heads to federal court to challenge raids

Shorten accuses government of ‘witch hunt’

Turnbull strongly rejects alleged political influence on police

Labor leader Bill Shorten has accused the Turnbull Government of indirectly instructing the federal police to carry out Tuesday night raids on the offices of his former union, the Australian Workers Union.

The raids were in support of an investigation into the AWU by the relatively new Registered Organisations Commission, which was set up by the government in May to regulate unions and employer groups.

In August, employment minister Michaelia Cash instructed the ROC to investigate the AWU over a $100,000 donation from the union to the activist group GetUp in 2005, when Mr Shorten was the leader of the union.

0:00 Bill Shorten has questions to answer: Turnbull on AFP raids on AWU Share Bill Shorten has questions to answer: Turnbull on AFP raids on AWU

“This is a little-known organisation, which was set up in the last few months by the government, to do exactly what we predicted they’d do – hunt down and smear the reputation of the opponents of the government,” Mr Shorten said on Wednesday morning.

“The regulator, at the behest of the government, is conducting a political witch-hunt designed to throw mud in the hope that some will stick.”

Lawyer for the the AWU Josh Bornstein called the investigation “unlawful”.

“Today we brought an urgent application before the fed court to seek to stop the fed police from handing over the documents that it seized yesterday in those raids that were broadcast to all,” he said.

“It wasn’t necessary to pursue that undertaking – (to) pursue that order before the court because the federal police and the regulator have made commitments, the federal police has committed that it will not hand over the documents that it seized and the regulator has also committed that it will not accept any document seized by the federal police until the court has had time to hear the parties and hear our case.

“The warrant in this case is illegal, and that the investigation is also unlawful.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hit back at the allegations of political interference and said the opposition leader had serious questions to answer over the donation.

He said Labor’s “hysterical attack” on the integrity of the AFP was a “disgrace” and said the police were merely upholding the rule of law.

“They are accusing the Australian Federal Police of being politically motivated. That is a disgrace. Bill Shorten knows that a lie and he should apologise for it,” Mr Turnbull told reporters on Wednesday morning.

AFP officers raided the Melbourne and Sydney headquarters of the AWU on Tuesday evening. The ROC said it sought search warrants for the AFP after developing a suspicion that documents relating to the GetUp donation were being “concealed or destroyed” in the union’s offices.

Channel Seven and other media outlets were in position to film the raids on Tuesday evening and captured the arrival of AFP officers. At least one Seven reporter followed police officers into the Sydney building. 

“I have got the greatest of respect for the AFP. I don’t question the integrity of the AFP,” Mr Shorten said.

“I question the integrity of Turnbull and the government.”

“How on earth was it possible that journalists were able to be there in advance of the police visit and how on earth did the journalists know about the raid? I don’t think the AFP told the media. I’m sure it was the government.”

Cash denies media tip-off

Senator Cash was questioned over the investigation in Senate Estimates on Wednesday.

Labor senator Doug Cameron asked if Senator Cash was certain no one in her office pre-warned the media about the raid.

“Yes,” Senator Cash replied.

“And quite frankly, I am offended on behalf of my staff as to those allegations. They are very serious allegations.”

Senator Cash was also asked if she had referred any other matters to the ROC besides the AWU donation.

She said she would take the question on notice.

Crossbench senator Nick Xenophon said finding out who leaked news of the impending raid to members of the media was a priority.

“There must be an independent investigation as to why the media was tipped off,” he said.

0:00 Federal police raid the AWU office Share Federal police raid the AWU office

Union challenges raid in court

The AWU is taking the matter to court in a bid to stop the ROC examining the documents taken in the police raid.

Legal firm Maurice Blackburn is taking the action in the Federal Court in Melbourne.

A quickly-arranged hearing will be held at 2.30pm on Wednesday afternoon.

Maurice Blackburn’s principal Josh Bornstein said the raids were an abuse of power.

“There were plenty of options open to the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) to seek access to these materials without having to deploy 32 AFP officers, including writing to the union or issuing a summons compelling production,” Mr Bornstein said.

Timeline:May 1 – The Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) is established by the govt as a federal regulator for unions and employer groups.August 16 – Employment minister Michaelia Cash instructs the ROC to investigate a donation from the Australian Workers Union (AWU) to activist group GetUp in 2005. Bill Shorten was leading the AWU in 2005.October 24 – Federal police raid the offices of the AWU in Melbourne and Sydney, acting on ROC instruction. Some media, including Channel 7, are tipped off and in position to shoot the raid.October 25 – Mr Shorten alleges a “political witch hunt”.  PM Turnbull says Labor should respect the independence of the federal police and the ROC. 

Treasurers to receive business report

A new Treasury report on why business investment is not meeting expectations will be delivered to the state and federal treasurers’ meeting on Friday.


Treasury secretary John Fraser told a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday it was expected business investment would continue to strengthen, “supported by increasing demand and low financing costs”.

But he said Treasury had consulted with small, medium and large businesses to find out why investment was “underperforming relative to expectations”.

“We met with the CEOs and CFOs of the top ASX-listed companies and the chief executives of peak industry bodies, while (small business ombudsman) Kate Carnell led consultation with SMEs,” Mr Fraser said.

AAP understands small business operators raised concerns during the consultations of poor access to finance when seeking sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, as opposed to tens of thousands, to expand their operations.

Banks were showing a preference for businesses with significant equity in bricks and mortar.

Small businesses also voiced concerns about cost pressures from the July wage rise and a doubling of power bills.

It was suggested governments could look at ways to free up banks and other lending institutions to support SMEs, as well as encourage superannuation funds to invest.

The treasurers, meeting in Sydney, will also be briefed by Productivity Commission chairman Peter Harris on his latest report, Shifting the Dial, which recommends reform in education, health, transport, housing, cities and energy.

Distribution of the GST and the new national housing and homelessness agreement will also be on the agenda.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet told AAP the GST was a crucial issue.

“I’ve made no secret of my views on the redistribution of GST and how heavily NSW is short-changed under the horizontal fiscal equalisation model and we will be making our case for change on Friday,” he said.

No heritage listing for Sydney’s Sirius

The NSW government has again refused to place Sydney’s iconic Sirius building on the state heritage list, paving the way for its demolition by developers.


Heritage Minister Gabrielle Upton on Wednesday said she had decided the brutalist social housing building was “not of state heritage significance”.

The state government wants to sell the site in The Rocks, near the Harbour Bridge, to developers who plan to replace it with hundreds of private apartments.

The decision marks the second time the government has refused to place the site on the State Heritage Register.

Then heritage minister Mark Speakman decided against listing the building in July 2016 because it would cause “undue financial hardship” for the building’s owners.

That decision was invalidated a year later by the Land and Environment Court which ruled the government had not properly considered a recommendation by the Heritage Council to list Sirius.

Acting Justice Simon Molesworth also concluded even if registering Sirius decreased its value that wouldn’t constitute financial hardship.

The court ordered the government pay costs to the Millers Point Community Association which is fighting the decision to sell off the controversial building.

The Heritage Council recommended in early 2016 that the building be placed on the register for both its aesthetic value and rarity, however, Ms Upton on Wednesday said she wasn’t convinced on either front.

“There are differing views in relation to whether or not the Sirius building is of aesthetic value at all, and the nature of that value,” she said.

Earlier this month, the building, which was completed in 1980, was added to the World Monuments Fund’s 2018 watch list.

Save our Sirius chairman Shaun Carter says the group will appeal the latest decision if possible.

“We will refer it to the Environmental Defenders Office and, if there’s a millimetre of space in this decision, we will appeal it to the Land and Environment Court,” Mr Carter told AAP on Wednesday, adding he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the decision.

“Something the government has failed to consider is this is a really delicate and sensitive part of town,” he said.

Hanson gets submarines 101 lesson from senior defence officers

Pauline Hanson has been given a submarines 101 lesson by senior defence force officers.


The One Nation leader attempted to grill the officers about Australia’s $50 billion submarine project during a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Wednesday.

French shipbuilder Naval Group has been awarded the design contract for a fleet of 12 vessels.

“Is it true that pump-jet submarines can only stay underwater for 20 minutes,” Senator Hanson asked.

Rear Admiral Greg Sammut, who heads up the submarine program, patiently explained engineering features to the senator.

“A pump jet is a form of propeller, it has no bearing on how deep a submarine can go, how long it can stay under water,” he said.

There were a number of factors including battery capacity that influenced time underwater.

“We are going to buy diesel-electric submarines and I can assure you senator they are going to stay underwater much longer than 20 minutes,” Admiral Sammut said.

He declined to say how much longer, citing that information was classified because of operational security reasons.

“I don’t think it’s classified,” Senator Hanson said.

The senator also cast doubts over the credentials of US experts who weighed up competing bids from France, Japan and Germany.

“America has not launched a diesel submarine for 55 years,” she said.

Admiral Sammut insisted the US experts had a lot of experience in the operation of diesel submarines and so did Australia.

Naval Group’s executive director of the Australian submarine program Jean-Michel Billig has said the vessels may end up with conventional propellers as well as air-independent propulsion.

John Madigan, a former independent senator, famously dubbed submarines the “spaceships of the ocean” in 2015.

SBY trumpets ‘ASEAN first’ policy stance

Southeast Asian nations must bolster their alliances amid uncertainty over America’s foreign policy plans, former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says.


He has told the Northern Australia Defence Summit that unity within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations must be a top priority in an increasingly volatile geopolitical climate.

“If President Donald Trump advocates an America-first foreign policy, in my view ASEAN countries should adopt an ASEAN-first stance,” Dr Yudhoyono said in Darwin on Wednesday.

The retired general raised concerns about increasing tension between the major powers but stopped short of labelling it a new cold-war era.

Dr Yudhoyono, who was president from 2004 to 2014, said Australia and Indonesia’s diplomatic ties had grown to become fundamentally sound and played a central role in maintaining stability in the region.

He called for a closer partnership between the two middle powers amid growing security challenges including natural disasters, people smuggling, terrorism, piracy and kidnapping.

Strategic and Defence Studies Centre head John Blaxland says the ex-president’s ambitions could be derailed by his “short-sighted” successor, Joko Widodo, who has an “Indonesia first” mentality similar to Trump’s.

“It’s a reductionist view of the world. Indonesia under Jokowi is not living up to its potential as the leader of the region. That’s a problem for our neighbourhood,” Professor Blaxland said.

“SBY is speaking out on these issues because he recognises his successor is not nearly as aspirational in this domain.”

Prof Blaxland said another obstacle is the divisiveness of ASEAN itself, claiming Laos and Cambodia have already been “bought off” by China.

Dr Yudhoyono also admitted “rising strategic rivalries” from countries outside the region risked disrupting ASEAN’s unity.

He predicted Mr Trump would announce a more coherent Asia policy during his tour of Asia in November.

“Given his preoccupation with China, with US trade deficit, with the South China Sea, President Trump will necessarily have to actively engage east Asian countries and ASEAN with or without a policy doctrine,” Dr Yudhoyono said.

Russia vetoes UN resolution on extending Syria gas attacks probe

 Russia on Tuesday vetoed a US-drafted resolution that would have granted a one-year extension to the mandate of a panel investigating who is behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria.


It was the ninth time Russia has used its veto power at the Security Council to block action targeting its Syrian ally.

Russia opposed renewing the mandate of the joint UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) panel before it releases a report on a sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, which is expected on Thursday.

The United States, France and Britain have accused President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of carrying out the April 4 attack on the opposition-held village, killing scores of people, including children.


After Russia cast its veto, US Ambassador Nikki Haley accused Moscow of “once again” siding “with the dictators and terrorists who use these weapons.”

“Russia has once again demonstrated it will do whatever it takes to ensure the barbaric Assad regime never faces consequences for its continued use of chemicals as weapons,” Haley said in a statement.

“By rejecting the renewal of the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) — an independent, purely technical body — Russia has made it clear that it does not care about stopping the use of chemical weapons in the world.”

A resolution requires nine votes to be adopted at the council, but five countries — Russia, Britain, China, France and the United States — can block adoption with their veto power.

China and Kazakhstan abstained, while Bolivia voted against the renewal and 11 other countries backed extending the mandate. Russia used its veto to block adoption.

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Russia failed at the opening of the meeting to garner enough support for a measure that would have delayed the vote until next month. The JIM’s mandate ends on November 17.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia accused the United States and its partners of seeking a vote on the measure “to show up and dishonor Russia.”

“What is taking place today is not very pleasant,” said Nebenzia. “It stinks, in fact.”

The ambassador renewed his criticism of the panel, saying its methodology and “the lack of evidence” in the Khan Sheikhun investigation was “laughable.”

But Nebenzia said the council could vote again on renewing the JIM after it has had the opportunity to study the Khan Sheikhun report.

“We did not close the JIM. We simply did not take a decision on extending it today, but we will return to it,” he said.

More than 87 people died in Khan Sheikhun, drawing global outrage and prompting the United States to fire cruise missiles at a Syrian air base from which the West says the attack was launched.

Last month, UN war crimes investigators said they had evidence that the Syrian air force was behind the attack, despite repeated denials from Damascus.

Russia maintains that the sarin attack was most likely caused by a bomb set off directly on the ground, not by a Syrian air strike as alleged by the West.

While the OPCW has established that sarin was used in the April attack, it does not have a mandate to assign blame, leaving that determination to the JIM.

The JIM has already concluded that Syrian government forces were responsible for chlorine attacks on three villages in 2014 and 2015, and that Islamic State jihadist group used mustard gas in 2015.

Bunnings UK sales weigh on Wesfarmers

Falling sales at Wesfarmers’ Bunnings businesses in the UK and Ireland have prompted analysts to voice concerns about the conglomerate’s foray into the UK home improvement market.


Bunnings, which bought the British Homebase business in February last year, says its UK and Ireland business suffered a 13.8 per cent fall in sales to $457 million during the first quarter of the 2018 financial year.

This follows the division’s $89 million loss in the 2017 financial year.

During a results briefing on Wednesday, analysts expressed concerns about the “high risk” move into the UK.

Merrill Lynch’s David Errington told Wesfarmers executives he was worried the UK troubles were being brushed aside and asked when the company would cut its losses and “get out.”

“I’m worried that this business will turn into that Monty Python scene where you get an arm chopped off and you say ‘it’s only a flesh wound’ and then a leg gets chopped off and you say ‘we are right, everything is fine,’ and then the poor bloke is left with just a torso and then nothing is left,” Mr Errington said.

“There’s no way that you would have expected to be in this position that you are in – in a very troubled market in the UK – with 250 Homebase stores that are going backwards.”

Outgoing Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder said while the UK expansion had risks, it was too early to judge the move.

“We are not happy with the performance of the Homebase stores,” Mr Goyder said.

“This (turnaround) will take longer than we would have liked but we continue to think there’s a significant opportunity to grow a profitable business in the UK.”

Wesfarmers’ Australian and New Zealand Bunnings business continued to perform strongly with store-on-store sales up 10.8 per cent in the 13 weeks to September 24 – markedly higher than the 5.5 per cent growth posted for the same period a year ago.

However, the group’s supermarket business Coles suffered a slowdown in first-quarter sales growth, courtesy of a rapid fall in the price of fresh produce and competition from a resurgent Woolworths.

The retailer’s comparable food and liquor sales grew only 0.4 per cent in the first quarter compared to a 1.8 per cent lift in the same period a year ago.

Wesfarmers says a 2.3 per cent fall in food and liquor prices during the first quarter of 2017/18 weighed on Coles’ sales growth, with bumper supplies of fruit and vegetables keeping produce prices down.

Coles managing director John Durkan said excluding fresh produce, food and liquor comparable sales were broadly in line with the trend achieved in the 2017 financial year.

Convenience store comparable sales growth was also weaker at 0.2 per cent, dragged down by a 21 per cent fall in fuel volumes.

Mr Goyder said overall, the group’s sales performance was “generally pleasing” and noted continued strong performance from the Bunnings Australia and New Zealand, Kmart and Officeworks chains.

Shares in Wesfarmers closed down $1.24, or 2.9 per cent, at $41.49.


* Coles total food and liquor sales up 1.5pct to $7.97b * Coles Express sales down 9.5pct to $1.4b * Bunnings Australian and NZ sales up 11.5pct to $2.96b * Bunnings UK & Ireland sales down 13.8pct to $457m * Kmart sales up 9.0pct to $1.36b * Target sales down 6.4pct to $602m * Officeworks sales up 7.8pct to $497m

‘No evidence’: Lawyer claims Australian school teacher’s husband was not at scene of killing

The estranged husband of Australian teacher Gabrielle Maina could face the death penalty in Kenya if he is charged and convicted of her murder.


But the investigation is still in the early stages and charges have not been laid.

The 40-year-old mother of two boys, aged eight and four, was killed by a single gunshot to the neck in the upmarket Nairobi suburb of Karen last Thursday.

Her husband, Cyrus Bernard Maina Njuguna, and another man John Njuguna Waithira were arrested on Monday local time over the shooting and faced court on Tuesday.

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The Kenyan judiciary has warned the pair could face a “mandatory death penalty” if charged and convicted.

Their lawyer, Wilfred Nderishu, told the ABC his clients were innocent and there was evidence to show neither was at the scene of the killing.

“There is evidence that is capable of corroboration by many people, as many as 10, that Cyrus was in his office at the time that the murder took place,” Mr Nderishu said.

Gabrielle Maina was a headteacher in Nairobi.Hillcrest Schools / Twitter

“Therefore, there is no way he can be placed at the scene.”

The court granted police a request to hold the two men in custody for another seven days while they gather evidence. They are next due to appear on October 31.

Before Tuesday’s court hearing Ms Maina’s lawyer George King’ori, who became her legal representative before her death, told AAP the couple was in the midst of divorce proceedings in the Kenyan courts.

The head teacher at Hillcrest Prepatory School in Karen was granted a restraining order against her husband in April.

“She feared he had become irrational,” Mr King’Ori told AAP.

Karen police have confirmed to Kenya’s The Standard that Mr Maina was being held as the prime suspect in Ms Maina’s murder.

“We believe he has information that can help us know how and why she was murdered,” Karen OCPD Cunningham Suiyanka told the newspaper.

“He is here with another suspect for interrogation.”

Police have also seized and are checking Ms Maina’s phone, which was taken by one of her alleged attackers.

Investigators believe she was accosted by three men while walking home after dropping off one of her sons at a friend’s home.

A post-mortem revealed she was shot in the neck, with the bullet exiting through her back, authorities said.

Because of the angle of the bullet and marks on her knees, investigators believe she was kneeling at the time.

Ms Maina moved to Nairobi from Sydney in 2015 so her two sons could experience another culture and grow up near her husband’s extended family, a friend told AAP this week.

She had taught English and drama for almost five years at Sarah Redfern High School in Sydney.

Kraft and Bega in peanut butter dispute

A jarring dispute between Bega Cheese and global food company Kraft-Heinz has escalated with legal action under way over who has rights to the design of a peanut butter container.


The dispute follows Bega’s finalisation in July of the purchase of Vegemite and a suite of food products including Kraft peanut butter from global food giant Mondelez International.

The deal, announced in January and hailed for returning Vegemite to Australian ownership, allowed Bega 12 months to use the Kraft peanut butter brand.

Dispute has now arisen, however, over which company has the rights to the design of the yellow-lidded-and-labelled jar used for Kraft peanut butter prior to the deal, and by Bega for its recently introduced Bega-branded nut spread.

Last week Kraft-Heinz took the matter to a New York federal court, alleging Bega could not use Kraft’s peanut butter jar design.

Bega on Wednesday acknowledged the claim, saying in a statement to the ASX that the legal action by Kraft-Heinz related to an agreement between companies in the Kraft and Mondelez groups at the time of their separation in 2012.

Mondelez was created in 2012 by the separation of Kraft’s confectionery business, while Kraft, which focused on food brands, subsequently merged with Heinz.

“Bega Cheese is assessing these proceedings but is confident of its legal rights in its peanut butter products and will vigorously enforce those rights,” Bega said on Wednesday.

The company asserted that as part of the acquisition of Modelez’s Australia and New Zealand grocery and cheese business, it had also secured the associated intellectual property rights and the manufacturing facility at Port Melbourne, along with the skilled staff.

“The only change has been the removal of the Kraft brand,” Bega said.

Kraft-Heinz on Tuesday announced it will bring its own locally manufactured peanutbutter brand back to Australian supermarketshelves in early 2018.

Perth’s acting lord mayor vows stability

Perth’s new acting lord mayor has vowed to return stability to the council following Lisa Scaffidi’s agreement to step aside while she appeals an 18-month disqualification.


Jemma Green was elected deputy mayor of the City of Perth on Tuesday night during a lengthy meeting following a tied vote between former deputy mayor James Limnios and Reece Harley.

Ms Scaffidi stood down in September pending an appeal after the State Administrative Tribunal found she breached the Local Government Act 45 times by failing to disclose gifts, including a $US24,000 BHP Billiton-funded package to the Beijing Olympics.

Ms Green is the co-founder and chair of renewable energy company Power Ledger and has a background in academia and investment banking.

“We’ve had a lot of division in council and at the recent election there was a clear message from ratepayers that they wanted a council that was going to work together and I think everyone was very cognisant of that,” Ms Green told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“Many people in the community and the business are looking for stability and I hope to bring that.”

Ms Green said she did not intend to have a conversation with Ms Scaffidi.

She said discussions on Tuesday night had allowed councillors to rebuild fractured relationships and “clear the air”.

“We need to make things happen in the city, there’s high office vacancy, parking is stifling business, we need more activation, we need to stimulate economic activity,” Ms Green said.

Ms Scaffidi lost key backers Judy McEvoy and Keith Young at last weekend’s local government elections.

Premier Mark McGowan and Opposition Leader Mike Nahan have long called for Ms Scaffidi to quit.

Retired police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan also weighed in on the “messy” issue on Wednesday, saying the city needed a clean break.

“I think people are probably getting a bit debilitated by the whole thing going on for so long,” he told 6PR radio.