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Mar 01 , 2019 / By :

Smartphones are the latest weapons in the campaign to save abducted children in Australia following the launch of a new app.
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US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich hosted the launch of the phone app, developed by the Australian Federal Police with the support of the FBI, at his Canberra residence a short time ago.

It allows parents to store crucial data, including pictures of their children, on their phones ready to be shared with police in the event tragedy strikes.

Ambassador Bleich said America’s campaign to save abducted children had really begun on May 25, 1979, when Etan Patz, a six-year-old from New York, disappeared.

The case had sparked national outrage. Patz was the first child to have his face posted on milk cartons.

The smart phone app is an extension of that thinking. With 75 per cent of abducted children murdered by their captors within the first three hours of being taken it is essential to get as much information out as quickly as possible.

May 25 has now been designated missing children’s day internationally.

Using the app, which can be downloaded by Googling ‘child ID’ or through i-tunes, parents can preload photos, contact details, descriptions and other information onto their smart phones.

The information stays on the phone until, in the event a child disappears, they share it with the authorities so it can be circulated as widely as possible.

The data base can be updated with new photos and information as the child grows.Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Tony Negus, said the system, already operating with considerable success in the US, was totally secure.

“The information is stored on your phone until it is needed,” he said. “I encourage all Australian families to download the app.”

He said more than 130,000 Americans had downloaded the US version of the software already with the FBI indicating it had been of assistance in a number of cases.

“Almost 20,000 Australians under the age of 18 go missing each year,” he said.

“This can be for many different reasons and, thankfully, most are located in one week – but imagine the anguish of that week for their families.”

Ambassador Bleich said the US decision to make Australia the first country it shared the “sophisticated and sensitive” source code that made the app possible with underlined the strength of the alliance between the two nations.

He said that as a parent of teenage children himself he was “particularly grateful” for a new technology that would make them safer.

“I would like to hope it could make them do their homework too, but we may have to save that for another day.’’

In addition to allowing parents to pre-load information in an easily accessible and shareable form, the app also contains information and safety tips including check lists and contact numbers.

The Daniel Morcombe Foundation is also working on a phone app to help protect children.

“The two (apps) will be complementary; they will not be in competition with each other,’’ Commissioner Negus said.

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Mar 01 , 2019 / By :

Miami: It wasn’t long ago that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women couldn’t get security clearance from the CIA. Now the US national spy agency is actively recruiting them.
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The CIA and Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday night will sponsor a community-wide networking event at the LGBT Visitor Centre in South Beach.

“This is the first one ever,” said Michael Barber, the CIA’s LGBT community outreach and liaison program manager. “This is the first of what I hope will be similar networking events with LGBT chambers across the nation.”

A second networking event is scheduled for Thursday night in Orlando.

Mr Barber, “a straight ally”, along with gay CIA employees engineering development chief Bill French and technical information officer Tracey Ballard will speak to prospective employees about the benefits of joining the agency.

“I look at my job as informing and educating about the CIA’s mission. And in the LGBT community, debunking those myths,” Mr Barber said, referring to the widely held assumption that gay people are unwelcome.

In 1989, a federal appeals court found evidence that the CIA routinely denied security clearances to gay people.

“There was a history of discrimination against LGBT persons in the federal government,” Ms Ballard said. “The process was extremely difficult for LGBT people to get security clearance prior to 1995.”

That year, president Bill Clinton signed an executive order stating: “the United States government does not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex, national origin, disability or sexual orientation in granting access to classified information.”

Clinton’s order opened the door to gay employees coming out at the CIA, said Ballard, who in 1996 founded ANGLE (Agency Network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered Employees and Allies), an agency-sanctioned employee group.

ANGLE, which Ms Ballard still co-chairs, has more than 230 “known members”, she said.

“There were a number of LGBT people at the agency prior to 1996,” Ms Ballard said. “We’ve always been there. But at that point of time, a small handful of us began finding each other and talking. We did informal networking among ourselves.”

The presidential order “allowed our LGBT officers to be more comfortable in the workplace and to be themselves”, she said. “It allowed conversations among our peers. True conversations. We didn’t have to hide any more. That’s a cultural shift, to allow our peers to be seen as equal, based upon the work they do.”

More than 50 people have signed up for the free networking event. Many are bringing resumes “and seriously thinking of the CIA for employment”, chamber president Steve Adkins said.

The CIA proposed the event. “They obviously had a lot of LGBT employees,” Mr Adkins said. “They want to make sure we know their stories and, in addition, make people aware that they’re an open and inclusive employer. Who knew?”

Miami Herald

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Mar 01 , 2019 / By :

The Australian dollar has become a matter of ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ with the you being Australian exporters. Bad global news provides a reason for the Aussie to remain strong and good global news provides a reason for it to get stronger.
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The bottom line is that our dollar remains elevated and there’s nothing much that can be done about it. Thus wise managements have simply got on with the business of adapting to the reality of a strong currency, leaving the whingeing and complaining to those with the time for pointless pursuits.

At this stage it would be a little cruel to point out all the people who were bravely and foolishly forecasting the Aussie would be sliding below parity now, so as there’s not a fly handy to have its wings removed, let’s just finger a few who stuck their heads up back in July. NAB at that stage was briefly enjoying a spell of reasonably successful currency guessing, but it tempted fate by predicting we’d fall below parity for Christmas and they were not alone.

The only way to be able to claim a record of successful currency forecasting is to stick to a very wide band, so to suggest the Aussie is likely to trade between about US95¢ and US115¢ might be the way to go. Most forex forecasts are just extrapolations of whatever the latest trend might be. Thus there are plenty of suggestions that the Aussie’s current rally will continue.

And it might or it might not. Whichever ends up being the case, there’s little chance of our dollar becoming cheap again.

If you want to concentrate on the gloomy side of the equation, “the ongoing North Atlantic crisis and Japan’s miserable outlook”, it’s a good argument to hold Australian dollars as the Americans, Europeans and Japanese continue to try to debase their currencies. Why would anyone want to hold greenbacks when the Fed has promised to keep printing billions of them every month until American unemployment magically falls?

What is constantly missed in the usual discussion of the exchange rate is that it’s not all about us. The other side of the equation has to be considered and that other side is not a pretty picture.

On the more optimistic side, the gathering confidence that China’s growth rate is growing again is a reason for the world to look more fondly on the Aussie. A strengthening China restores the commodities story, which on top of strong national accountants, sound institutional governance, low government debt, AAA ratings, and a resurgent cricket team means the Aussie looks pretty good.

Yes, it’s higher than we’d like, but sometimes it would be nice if the sun rose in the west for a little variety as well. The good operators accept it and get working harder and smarter to deal with it. It’s all part of the uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding process of being pushed up the value chain.

Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor.

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Mar 01 , 2019 / By :

.Frank Farina will be announced as the new coach of Sydney FC later this afternoon. The announcement will be made by the club’s chief executive Tony Pignata at their Macquarie University headquarters.
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The former Socceroos and Brisbane Roar manager is understood to have accepted a short-term offer that will see him take the reins of the Sky Blues until the end of the season.

Farina, 48, will take charge immediately and is expected to arrive in Sydney tomorrow as Ian Crook’s replacement. He will take charge of the team in Sunday’s match against Melbourne Heart at Allianz Stadium.

Negotiations with Farina have been stalled as a result of his inaccessibility at times, for he is currently in Papua New Guinea, where he is coach of the national team.

Farina most recently coached in the A-League with Brisbane Roar and took them as far as a preliminary final in 2008-9 before being dismissed for being caught for drink-driving.

Prior to that he was coach of the Socceroos between 1999 and 2005, a role he took on after impressing in his first two coaching stints at Marconi Stallions and Brisbane Strikers in the NSL. He famously guided the Strikers to their one and only championship win as player-coach in 1997.

His playing career was highly decorated, scoring 14 goals in 67 appearances for the national team. He also starred in the NSL with Canberra Arrows, Sydney City and Marconi before embarking on a successful career in Belgium and France.

Farina already has a close relationship with Sydney’s assistant coaches Zeljko Kalac and Steve Corica, who he played with and later coached during his time with the national team.

The Sky Blues are currently last on the A-League table with two wins from their first eight games. However, they are only four points off sixth place, meaning there’s plenty of time for Farina to turn the season around.

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Mar 01 , 2019 / By :

The big stick … Then AFL chairman Ron Evans, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Demetriou reveal the penalties 10 years ago. The brutal reality … Carlton’s contingent reacts to the penalties after they were announced in 2002.
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The dramatic day in 2002

It was simply one of the most theatrical nights in footy and there wasn’t a Sherrin in sight.

And the dramatic climax to the evening’s proceedings came after 2am – well after most people’s bedtime, even for a Friday night – instead of approaching time-on in the final quarter of a gripping night match.

The night we’re referring to was nearly 10 years ago to the day and it remains one of the most tumultuous evenings in footy history – in modern times, at least.

It was the night the AFL Commission wielded the biggest possible stick on Carlton, slapping the repeat offender of salary cap breaches with severe draft penalties and a massive fine that many thought would threaten the very existence of one of the foundation clubs of the AFL.

When then AFL chairman, Ron Evans, and then chief executive, Wayne Jackson, flanked by then football operations chief, Andrew Demetriou, announced at an early morning media conference that the Blues were to be fined almost $1 million lose the first two picks for the national draft less than 48 hours later, everyone was gobsmacked.

The fine was unprecedented and aside from dealing with the financial implications, Carlton also had to come to terms with the painful reality that the best two young footballers in the land, namely Brendon Goddard and Daniel Wells, had just slipped from their grasp. For days and months to come Blues supporters would react with venom.

After a commission hearing that lasted more than seven hours, Jackson said the Blues had been found guilty of “a complex and deliberate scheme designed and implemented to hide payments and deceive the AFL”. That fact was already known but few observers genuinely thought the league would come down so heavily on the team.

The media conference was held after 2am and the mood was patently hostile. There was clear and open animosity between the AFL and Carlton’s representatives to the point where the Blues were so angered by the outcome they refused to let AFL officials attend their own media conference, where they responded to the league’s penalties.

The Ian Collins-led administration had only recently taken over the club’s leadership and the penalty quickly hit home.

“I think it is the lowest point in Carlton’s history,” the new Carlton president said on that night.

The events of Friday November 22, 2002, have loomed fresh in the memory of this correspondent because of this week’s AFL Commission hearing where the Adelaide Football Club – and several related parties – will answer charges of draft tampering and other related offences.

There’s no suggestion the Crows have gone anywhere near orchestrating the same sophisticated process of breaching the salary cap as the John Elliott administration at Carlton, but the league is not happy that draft tampering and salary cap breaches have again reared their head in the AFL.

It has already been derided as the Kurt Tippett Saga. Ten years ago the Carlton affair had several different monikers and implicated some big names at the famous club in Stephen Silvagni and Craig Bradley.

No one expects the Crows will be hit to anywhere near the same extent as the Blues were 10 years ago, but the league has a history of coming down hard on individuals and groups who threaten the “key planks” of the competition’s equalisation strategies – the salary cap and the draft.

Truth be told, Carlton was not a first-time offender so they could have expected a right whack. They were fined $872,424 (plus a suspended fine of $57,576) and their first draft pick in 2002 suddenly became No.45 overall. They used it wisely, picking up the club favourite Kade Simpson.

The impact on Carlton was expected to be profound in the short and medium term. But it took years for the Blues to rebuild. Winning the pre-season competition, the AFL’s Wizard Cup, in 2005 was seen by some as the end to the club’s ills. But it was nothing more than a false dawn.

With the Crows preparing for their day of judgment on Friday, it is hard to accurately predict the outcome that awaits the club. But we can at least speculate on their motives after their gesture to “withdraw” their first two selections in last week’s AFL draft.

The scenario is different. Adelaide comes to the league with its tail between its legs after confessing to the AFL late in last month’s trade period that it had come to a secret arrangement with Tippett to trade him to the club of his choice for a minimum second round draft choice when his contract expired this year. The Crows also agreed to underwrite $200,000 worth of third party payments when it re-signed Tippett at the end of 2009.

Ten years ago the commission dropped something of a bombshell on the competition and the Blues. Now it seems the Crows are doing everything possible to mitigate against their past wrongdoings.

We’ll find out soon enough if another fateful Friday awaits a big AFL club.

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Jan 31 , 2019 / By :

Collingwood’s chief executive Gary Pert.AS concerns about illicit drug use by AFL players mount, Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert says some players are guilty of “volcanic behaviour” during the off-season and wants a forum of all clubs to discuss the problem.
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Pert said drugs was the biggest issue in the AFL and made this clear during his presentation to fellow club chief executives on the Gold Coast last week.

“It’s the biggest issue as far as I am concerned because I have watched two players retire from their football careers in Ben Cousins and Gavin Crosisca,” he said on Wednesday.

“They have come in as young men into a football environment not being drug users and they have left addicted to illegal drugs.

“I have watched Lance Armstrong destroy a sport because of his behaviour. I read the papers every day about how big an issue this is in the lives of young men and we happen to have the highest risk demographic in this area, which is 18 to 30 year old men.”

Rumours of players taking drugs regularly abound within AFL circles but only six players failed illicit drugs tests in 2011.

None of the six players who failed illicit drugs tests last year tested positive to cannabis, a result the AFL described as remarkable.

However, the league was forced to defend a reduction in the number of tests carried out as all six players who tested positive were first strikes in the three-strikes-and-out policy under the outside-of-competition code. This testing is in addition to the standard World Anti-Doping Code program the league has adopted.

AFL medical director Peter Harcourt said in June in most cases players had taken drugs as a result of poor decision-making during a night out when alcohol and illicit drugs had been freely available.

Pert said the off-season was potentially a dangerous time for cashed-up players who have even more time on their hands and are outside of club control.

“There is volcanic behaviour which is what you are talking about,” he said.

“We have had experts and consultants, talk to us, and psychologists, and there is definitely a concern that has been raised to all of the club CEOs and the AFL are very aware of this.

“By the very nature of the disciplines we put in place for the players mean, at times, especially during the off-season, and when we have breaks, are deemed to be the highest risk times.”

Pert clearly wants the current system tinkered with, although he maintains he fully supports this model.

“In a lot of ways it’s an un-coordinated approach and in conversations I have had with other CEOs, there are little things we are doing differently so I brought it up at the conference,” he said.

“By saying this is the biggest issue in the AFL, naturally that puts Collingwood into the mix and we want to be a big part of this. But I stress the AFL’s program that deals with holding the players accountable and then the counselling and education that comes out of that is a program that is run by the AFL and I 100 per cent support it.

“But I think it’s an appropriate time for the CEOs to have a discussion and go are there any other elements that fit around that? It’s not about changing the system but are there some elements that may benefit the environment and cultures we create at our club.”

Under the current policy, players are named publicly only if they test positive three times in an out-of-competition scenario. Those who test positive for the first or second times are afforded counselling, some anonymity and advice by their club doctors and external drug experts. Any players who test positive three times to illicit drugs in out-of-competition testing can be suspended for up to 18 matches.

In 2010, Hawthorn’s Travis Tuck became the first player to be suspended under the policy. He was banned for 12 matches and fined $5000.

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Jan 31 , 2019 / By :

The young star of Two and a Half Men, Angus T Jones, has apologised for his diatribe against the popular show that set the media alight this week.
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In a statement released today on TMZ Jones says, “I apologise if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed. I never intended that.”

The teenage actor who has recently found religion is referring to a video posted online by a Christian church that shows him describing the hit show as ‘filth’.

On the video he said: “If you watch Two and a Half Men, please stop watching Two and a Half Men.”

“I’m on Two and a Half Men and I don’t want to be on it. If I am doing any harm, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be contributing to the enemy’s plan … You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that.

“I’m not okay with what I’m learning, what the Bible says and being on that television show.”

Jones, 19, has been on the show, which used to feature bad-boy actor Charlie Sheen, since he was 10 years old. His remarks created a storm of controversy for the sitcom not seen since Sheen’s tumultuous departure less than two years ago after a very public falling out with the show’s creator Chuck Lorre.

Jones reportedly earns US$350,000 (A$337,000) per episode and is under contract with the CBS network. The young star is now backtracking on his remarks, paying tribute to Lorre and the cast and crew.

“Without qualification, I am grateful to and have the highest regard and respect for all of the wonderful people on Two and Half Men with whom I have worked and over the past 10 years who have become an extension of my family,” he said in a statement.

“Chuck Lorre, Peter Roth and many others at Warner Bros. and CBS are responsible for what has been one of the most significant experiences in my life to date. I thank them for the opportunity they have given and continue to give me and the help and guidance I have and expect to continue to receive from them.”

Sheen joined the fray overnight telling People magazine the show is “cursed”.

“With Angus’s Hale-Bopp-like meltdown, it is radically clear to me that the show is cursed,” he said.

Jones plays Jake, the son of Jon Cryer’s uptight divorced chiropractor character, Alan, and the nephew of Sheen’s hedonistic philandering music jingle writer, Charlie. After Sheen was fired for his repeated drug use he was replaced by Ashton Kutcher, who plays billionaire Walden.

According to a source from the show Angus T Jones isn’t due back on set until the new year. With his character now in the Army he has largely been absent from storylines. The show’s makers have so far declined to comment publicly on the young actor’s outburst.

The actors on Two and a Half Men have contracts that run through the end of the season.

Here is the statement that Jones released today:

“I have been the subject of much discussion, speculation and commentary over the past 24 hours.

While I cannot address everything that has been said or right every misstatement or misunderstanding, there is one thing I want to make clear. Without qualification, I am grateful to and have the highest regard and respect for all of the wonderful people on Two and Half Men with whom I have worked and over the past ten years who have become an extension of my family.

Chuck Lorre, Peter Roth and many others at Warner Bros. and CBS are responsible for what has been one of the most significant experiences in my life to date. I thank them for the opportunity they have given and continue to give me and the help and guidance I have and expect to continue to receive from them.

I also want all of the crew and cast on our show to know how much I personally care for them and appreciate their support, guidance and love over the years. I grew up around them and know that the time they spent with me was in many instances more than with their own families. I learned life lessons from so many of them and will never forget how much positive impact they have had on my life.

I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed. I never intended that.”

With AP, Reuters

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Jan 31 , 2019 / By :

Even if your start-up is just scraping along, you can always dream about flipping it for a fortune. It happens.
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In February, Apple bought the Australian discovery start-up Chomp for $US50 million. In June, Microsoft bought the social enterprise start-up Yammer for a dazzling $US1.2 billion. And on October 25, Yahoo snapped up the New York City-based smartphone app maker Stamped for a secret sum.

Here, two start-up experts tell how to raise your chances of getting bought out and joining the ranks of Chomp, Yammer and Stamped.

1. Build a dream product

To be in with a shout of having your start-up snapped up, first you need to devise a great product that people love and will happily talk about, says serial start-up founder Mark Harbottle, who has built web successes including Flippa, 99designs and SitePoint.

Examples of great products include the file hosting service Dropbox and the photo-sharing program Instagram, says Harbottle. Both grew through word of mouth, becoming valued in the billions because they were powerfully appealing, he says.

“I think it’s really hard to create products that people love out of thin air. You’ve got to try solving a problem people already have – give them a simple elegant solution and deliver unbelievable value.”

Then, he says, you are onto a winner, if the market is big enough and your numbers look good.

2. Prove you have traction

“Show numbers heading north,” Harbottle says.

Your start-up does not necessarily need to show revenue growth, but you should demonstrate “traction” – booming demand for your offering.

Prove that more people are using your product month-on-month. Prove that the number keeps increasing, remembering that you will win a much higher valuation if you dominate your market.

So, be number one. “No prizes for second,” Harbottle says.

3. Build your business with a buyer in mind

Too many entrepreneurs start out without an endgame. Plan your exit from the beginning, says business coach Alex Pirouz.

Actually phone the firm you want to buy you out, he says. Ask what it wants in a start-up. Then, when you pitch, success is more likely, he says.

4. Remove risk from your business

Ensure that your budding business boasts rock-solid structure. For instance, assess whether you have the systems in place to track all the financials and sales, Pirouz says.

The more you systemise and “de-risk” your start-up, the higher the price it can fetch.

5. Seek professional help

Yes, you can read 100,000 books on how to exit. But you will do better to hire a specialist advisor, says Pirouz.

Armed with wisdom anchored in “day-in-day-out” experience, a specialist will know the lawyers who need to be brought onboard and all the pitfalls and challenges – the tricky dynamics that could affect your start-up’s value.

Find a specialist by running a search on “exit professionals”, “corporate advisors” or “business brokers”.

6. Pick the best

Beware specialists who have far less deal-broking experience than they make out, Pirouz says. Investigate their record. Check whether they are in the right price bracket for sales.

If you want $50 million, any buy-out specialist you hire should have sunk deals of that order before. Tell prospective hires you are shopping around.

“I would ring four or five at a minimum and conduct meetings with them – and I would even let them know that I’m actually speaking to four other people,” Pirouz says.

“I do want to sell,” he adds, “but I want to make sure I can sell it to the person who’s able to get me the most amount without fluffing up the numbers just to get my business.”

The person you pick should have a clear grasp of your start-up’s worth and a network of potential investors ready in the wings, Pirouz says.

7. Prove you have a future

Finally, you should be in a position to make a persuasive case to investors that your start-up has “legs” – the strength to sustain momentum. You need to show that you can keep bringing in clients and cash indefinitely.

Your carefully compiled statistics about growth and revenue should boost your argument that you are a good long-term bet.

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Jan 31 , 2019 / By :

Poker machines.Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has claimed in Parliament that some MPs have been corrupted by their links to poker machine businesses.
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During a fiery debate on a government bill requiring poker machines to provide punters with the option of presetting a limit, Mr Wilkie said too many MPs were more concerned with the fate of pokies venues than with lives destroyed by problem gambling.

”Any number of members throughout this place don’t like these bills, and many members will indeed vote against them because those members are effectively on the payroll of the industry on account of the fat donations they’ve received already, or have been promised,” Mr Wilkie told parliament.

”In my opinion, deputy speaker, that’s corruption. Not of course in the criminal sense, but as every bit as dodgy as bags full of cash changing hands in some corrupt developing country.”

He said ”politicians on the take” were just one part of the story, with the ”real villains… the greedy  poker machine barons”.

He told the parliament the pokies industry lied and bullied to protect their profits which were ”fleeced” from the unfortunate.

Asked to withdraw by Liberal MP Steven Ciobo, Mr Wilkie declined on the grounds that he did not level any accusation at any specific MP and he was alleging corruption but not in the ”criminal sense.”

Mr Ciobo called Mr Wilkie’s speech one of the most ”extraordinary” he had ever heard in the parliament.

”Not on the basis of its soundness… but on the basis of an approach that delivered a speech so completely filled with sanctimony, moral superiority and an attitude that if you are not with me you are part of some evil cohort destined to ruin the lives of thousands, tens of thousands of Australians,” Mr Ciobo said.

He said it was a ”shameful and disgusting comment to make”.

Mr Wilkie told of the story of a problem gambler who, after losing all his money on Crown Casino’s pokies, went upstairs to his free room – which he got as a ”good customer” – and killed himself.

In January, the Prime Minister reneged on her deal with Mr Wilkie for a national system for a system forcing punters to preset their limit. Mr Wilkie now reluctantly supports the watered down bill.

The pokies industry, which ran a vocal campaign against the original reforms, says the new reforms are too difficult to meet under current deadlines.

The Opposition shares the industry’s position and is not backing the bill.

While there is a long list of speakers, mainly from the Coalition, there continues to be negotiation on who will support the bill, in particular several amendments put forward by the government, NSW independent Tony Windsor and the Greens.

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Jan 31 , 2019 / By :

A prominent Jewish community leader will seek an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard with the hope Australia will yet oppose a Palestinian seat in the United Nations.
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Philip Chester, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said time was of the essence before the Palestinian bid is put to the vote in New York on Thursday (around 7.30 am Friday).

”We’re exploring that right now,” Mr Chester said.

”Our aim is to talk to the Prime Minster at the first instance, others we have to think about.”

Ms Gillard’s decision on Tuesday for Australia would abstain in the contentious plan to give Palestinians a greater say in the UN caught many observers by surprise.

She was forced to abandon her personal opposition to the plan after a heated cabinet discussion where at least 10 ministers warned she faced a caucus revolt unless Australia at least sat on the fence.

Mr Chester was at pains to emphasise his organisation would not make threats – ‘‘we’re not a lobby group in terms of how people should vote’’ – but said many in the Jewish community had expressed surprise and disappointment over Ms Gillard’s decision.

”Israel is very important to the community and both parties know that,” he said.

He said Foreign Minister Bob Carr – who was instrumental in gathering support for Australia to abstain – held a view in good faith but he disagreed.

”We have talked to him before on some of these issues, we didn’t have a sense that he supported unilateralism in the UN. I guess technically he is not because he is abstaining, but I’m not sure as time goes on what his view is going to be if this issue continues to ramp up,’’ he said.

”I don’t want to use the term ‘lose faith’, but we are concernced, we are very disappointed, and we need to understand better going forward what this really means.”

Mr Chester said things could happen on the floor of the UN that might prompt the government to rethink its position.

The opposition seized in Senate question time on revelations Prime Minister Julia Gillard had caved in to pressure from within her party over the issue.

Senate opposition leader Eric Abetz asked if Foreign Minister Bob Carr had threatened to vote against Ms Gillard in caucus and whether his ”honeyed words” were designed to paper over her humiliation.

”The answer to that is no,” Senator Carr told the chamber. ”I do like his language … honeyed words … I like that deft Shakespearean touch.”

Senator Carr said the decision was balanced. ”The vast bulk of Australians want a two-state solution,” he told the chamber. ”On countless occasions the previous coalition government opted to abstain. It’s a valid option.”

Senator Carr said US ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich was ”entirely relaxed” about Australia’s stance. Mr Bleich has made public comments expressing that sentiment.

with AAP

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