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Barnaby Joyce defends leaked texts amid France and Australia’s submarines row



Barnaby Joyce has launched an extraordinary defence of the decision to leak text messages between Scott Morrison and the French president.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has leapt to defend Prime Minister Scott Morrison as the diplomatic row between Australia and France over the axed submarines deal escalates.

Text messages between the two world leaders were sensationally leaked to the media on Monday night in an attempt to discredit French President Emmanuel Macron’s position after he accused Mr Morrison of lying.

Mr Joyce on Wednesday claimed that leaking text messages from a foreign leader was “not as extraordinary” as calling another foreign leader “a liar when they’re not”.

“We had a major political leader call the Prime Minister of Australia a liar and you can’t do that, diplomatically,” he told the ABC.

“You can’t go around calling other leaders of other countries a liar.

“Not (the leader of) a great nation of France. Some tin pot nation in the middle of nowhere, well, I suppose you can say what you like.”

Mr Joyce said the government had been looking at “contingency plans” well before the $90bn submarine contract with France was scrapped in favour of a pact with the US and the UK.

Mr Macron told Australian reporters at a summit in Rome at the weekend that he “knew” Mr Morrison had lied to him over the severing of the contract.

Mr Morrison subsequently denied his account. But just hours later, the text messages emerged, which are believed to have been strategically released to outlets via his office.

French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault earlier on Wednesday accused Mr Morrison of stabbing Paris in the back.

In a major speech to the National Press Club, Mr Thebault said the relationship between the two countries had sunk to a “new low”.

“The deceit was intentional,” Mr Thebault said earlier, as he unloaded on the Prime Minister in a room full of reporters.

“The way it was handled was plainly a stab in the back.

“What, after such events, can any partner of Australia now think, is the value of Australia’s signature?”

Asked if he believed the Prime Minister was “lying about lying”, Mr Thebault replied: “Yes, he was … I have several examples”.

“Maybe there’s a difference between misleading and lying.

“But, you know, among heads of states and governments, when you mislead a friend and an ally, you lie to him.”

He added the release of the text messages signalled Australia could not be trusted.

“You don’t behave like this on personal exchanges of leaders. Doing so also sends a very worrying signal for all heads of state,” the French ambassador said.

“Beware, in Australia there will be leaks. And what you say in confidence to your partners will be eventually used and weaponised against you one day.”

But in a press conference following the ambassador’s speech, Mr Morrison expressed his desire to end the spat, which has dominated headlines over the past week.

“Claims had been made and those claims were refuted,” he said during a stopover in Dubai.

“I don’t think there’s any further profit for anyone in continuing down this path.”

Earlier in the week, Mr Macron raised doubts over whether the AUKUS agreement would even deliver the proposed nuclear powered submarines in a timely manner: “Good luck”.

Echoing his comments, the French ambassador accused Australia of “magical thinking”.

Mr Thebault’s address is the first time he has publicly spoken since being recalled as ambassador following the announcement of the AUKUS agreement.

While he promised France would always stand with Australia, he cautioned against the government using “cheap words and promises of love”.

“We won’t any more buy on cheap words. We won’t buy on promises of love.

“At the same time … this is a golden opportunity. We can rebuild something substantial. But we start from very far away.”

But should Mr Morrison apologise? The ambassador sidestepped the question.

“Eating one share of humble pie may sometimes be difficult. It’s up to everyone to make his own decision,” he said.

Asked if he would follow the ambassador’s advice, Mr Morrison said he would never offer an apology to France for tearing up the agreement.

“Australia made the decision not to go ahead with the contract for a submarine that was not going to do the job that Australia needed to do.

“I’ll never make any apologies for that decision.”

Originally published as ‘Tinpot nation’: Barnaby Joyce defends leaked text messages over France subs row

Read related topics:Scott Morrison




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Teenager in hospital after high school stabbing in Melbourne’s west



A teenager is in hospital following a stabbing at a secondary school. Another student is assisting police.

A teenager is in hospital after an apparent stabbing at a high school in Melbourne’s west.

Victoria Police officers were called to the Hoppers Crossing Secondary School in Fraser St just after 11.30am on Wednesday.

A teenage boy sustained minor injuries, a spokeswoman said.

Another student is currently assisting police with their inquiries.

Paramedics treated a person for upper body injuries and they were taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital in a stable condition, Ambulance Victoria said.

Caller Dianne told 3AW radio her grandson, who is a student at the school, told her there had been a stabbing.

“It was quite a big knife,” she told the station on Wednesday.

“It’s my grandson’s friend, so it’s said.

“But he’s going to be alright.”

The incident is understood to have occurred in the food tech rooms, she said.

Hoppers Crossing Secondary College declined to comment, referring inquiries to police.

Originally published as Teenager in hospital after high school stabbing in Melbourne’s west




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WA Police to give update on rescue of Cleo Smith



WA Police will give an update on the rescue of four-year-old Cleo Smith who was found just a few minutes from home after being missing for more than two weeks.

West Australian Police will give an update on the rescue of four-year-old Cleo Smith who was missing for more than two weeks before detectives swooped on a property just minutes from her home.

Cleo was allegedly abducted from the family tent at Quobba Blowholes in Macleod, near Carnarvon in the state’s north, on October 16.

It prompted a nationwide search before officers descended on a property in Carnarvon just a short distance from the local police station about 1am on Wednesday.

A 36-year-old man has been taken into custody and Cleo has been reunited with her parents.

Police will soon speak to the media about the incident.

More to come

Originally published as WA Police to give update on rescue of Cleo Smith




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NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole says he will oppose Hawkins and Rumker coalmining proposal



The NSW Deputy Premier says he will oppose a coalmining project in a ‘beautiful’ area of NSW that lies next to a national park.

The NSW Deputy Premier says he will move to stop a controversial coal project near Wollemi National Park.

Paul Toole told a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday that he would propose to the cabinet that the coal exploration project in the Hawkins and Rumker areas should be ruled out.

“It is my intention to take this proposal to my colleagues, and it is my intention to actually rule it out,” Mr Toole said.

The 3000-hectare area of land, just north of Mr Toole’s electorate of Bathurst, has been earmarked for potential exploration, but some locals have argued against the plan.

A report by consultancy firm EarthScapes that was commissioned by anti-mining lobby group Lock the Gate showed there were dozens of Aboriginal heritage sites nearby.

The report said the Hawkins and Rumker areas, and nearby Ganguddy-Kelgoola, had no less than 45 recorded heritage sites between them.

The consultants also said 22 threatened animal species and six threatened plant species would be at risk.

Mr Toole said he was not convinced the project would be commercially viable and “social issues” were also at play.

“It is a beautiful area,” he said.

“And there are commercial issues around its viability, but there’s also social issues that have been identified as well.

“And I think it makes it very clear for me to actually say to my department that when we put the report going up to my colleagues, it will be actually indicating that we rule it out.”

Greens upper house MP Cate Faehrmann, who used her time at budget estimates to ask Mr Toole about his position on the project, said afterwards the Deputy Premier’s announcement was “wonderful news”.

“I am now calling on the NSW government to protect this culturally rich and environmentally significant area by adding it to the national parks estate,” she said.

“This area was originally left out of Wollemi National Park because of its potential for coal exploration.

“Opening it up now would have devastated the local community and the Dabee Wiradjuri people and put 7000 hectares of threatened ecological communities, countless Aboriginal heritage sites and our climate at risk.”

She also said the government should rule out coal and gas projects in Ganguddy-Kelgoola as well.

Originally published as NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole says he will oppose Hawkins and Rumker coalmining proposal




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Man allegedly attempts to rob Adelaide service station with piece of stationery



A man is on the run after he allegedly picked up a mundane object from the counter and tried to hold up a service station with it.

A staff member at an Adelaide west service station faced a scary yet bizarre encounter when a man allegedly attempting a robbery threatened him with a piece of stationery.

SA Police were called to the Richmond Rd business at about 5.10am on Wednesday after receiving reports that a man had entered the store and threatened the employee, demanding that he fill a bag with cash.

Police allege the man picked up a pen from the counter and used it to threaten the staffer.

The employee wasn’t afraid of the man’s bizarre weapon of choice, refusing to hand over any money and chasing him out of the store.

The man, described as being of caucasian appearance with receding hair, was last seen running east along Richmond Rd.

He is about 180cm tall and wore a black jacket with dark-coloured pants and red, white and black Nike Air Max shoes as well as a face mask.

There were no reported injuries.

Police allege the same man walked into a cafe in Pirie St in the Adelaide CBD at about 8am and stole cash from the till.

He did not make any threats and no weapon were seen by staff members.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or sees the man is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or go online.

Originally published as Man allegedly attempts to rob Adelaide service station with piece of stationery




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Northern Territory weather: Rain falls on Uluru national park, waterfalls gushing



Rare scenes spotted in the outback have been described as ‘rare and magical’ as tourists flock to see the unique weather event.

A dumping of rain has created a “rare and magical” waterfall scene in the Northern Territory’s Uluru and Kata Tjuta national park overnight.

More than 22mm of rain fell on the popular outback destination, causing rock holes to overflow and gushing waterfalls down the sides of Uluru and Kaṉtju Gorge.

“While that doesn’t sound like much, the annual average rainfall is just under 300mm,” Parks Australia said via the reserve’s Facebook account.

It mentioned locals and tourists had braved the wet conditions to catch a glimpse of the “unique weather event”.

“With a hot summer ahead, the rain is welcome and locals are hoping for more of it over the coming months,” the post continued.

So much water had flowed down to Kaṉtju Gorge that the viewing platform was almost underwater, the post read.

The waterfalls streaming down the gorge also sparked the burrowing frogs to come out of hiding.

“After 22mm of rain overnight, these noisy creatures which sound like sheep are in frog heaven,” the post read.

“For most of the year these frogs are underground, avoiding hot and dry conditions. They emerge after rain to breed, feed and return underground to evade perishing in the harsh weather conditions.

“They call profusely after enough rain has fallen to entice them from their burrows.”

The rain comes amid scorching temperatures in the NT and Queensland in October, with meteorologists reporting a two-degree increase in average temperatures.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, October was hotter than usual for Australia as a whole, with every state except Victoria noticing significantly warmer-than-average weather.

Queensland experienced its fourth-warmest October ever, with an average increase of 2.12 degrees.

The NT experienced an increase of 2.11 degrees, its third-warmest October on record.

Darwin sweated through its warmest-ever October night on record on the 20th, reaching 26.6C, while Brisbane recorded its hottest October day since 2004, with a top of 36.6C on October 4.

Originally published as Gushing waterfalls as massive dumping of rain falls on Uluru national park




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Melbourne Cup 2021: Natalie Barr’s big win on Melbourne Cup



Sunrise host Natalie Barr pocketed a handsome sum from the race that stops a nation after a chance encounter.

Sunrise presenter Natalie Barr has pocketed $800 from the Melbourne Cup after a handy tip from a colleague’s mum.

The Channel 7 morning show’s sports presenter, Mark Beretta, asks his mum each year to provide her tips to viewers for the race that stops a nation.

The advice prompted Barr to open an online betting account and place $50 on the Chris Waller trained mare, Verry Elleegant.

The novice punter admitted to viewers she had never bet online before, which took her an hour to figure out.

“I thought ‘there’s something called sporting bet or Sportsbet’ and I don’t know what that means, but I’d heard of the TAB, so I set up an account,” Barr said.

“But now I don’t know how to get it out.”

Beretta’s mum, Joan, had provided a windfall for many more Australians with Barr saying her message inbox was full with other viewers who followed the punting advice.

Joan’s tip was particularly welcomed by novice punters given the juicy odds of Verry Elleegant, which was paying about $15 to win.

The Peter Moody trained Incentivise went into the major race as the clear favourite, priced at $2.50.

It sat in second for majority of the 3200m race at Flemington and burst into the lead in the famously long straight.

But Verry Elleegant strode up alongside and steamed into the lead to hand jockey James McDonald his first ever Melbourne Cup victory.

“I just didn’t think this day would ever happen,” he said after Tuesday’s major event. “I ride in these races, I really want to win but sometimes you can overthink it and try too hard.

“I was very confident in the mare today. Thoughts went through my mind at the 500m when I saw Incentivise getting shoved along but I knew he would fight. There wasn’t a horse that was going to come from behind me, it was just a matter of catching him.”




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Victoria politics: Liberal MP Tim Smith insists he is not an alcoholic amid drink driving scandal



A drink-driving MP is under intense pressure to quit the Liberal Party after its leader said he did not want him to contest the next election.

A Victorian Liberal MP who crashed his car into a family home while drunk has insisted he is “not an alcoholic” while vowing to never drink alcohol again while in public life.

Tim Smith resigned from the front bench and his position as the state’s attorney-general after he crashed his car into a Hawthorn home on Saturday, returning a blood alcohol reading of 0.131.

Mr Smith on Wednesday begged for forgiveness and said he was assessing his future in politics amid speculation his career was over.

“I hadn’t eaten all day, the reading was much higher than I could ever have imagined. I was shocked and amazed by what happened with regards to the reading,” he told 9 radio.

“I have done something shameful and stupid and I’m so, so sorry for the embarrassment and the harm that I have caused.”

Police said Mr Smith crashed his car into a parked vehicle before ploughing into the wall of a family home on Saturday night.

He has lost his licence for 12 months.

The crash caused significant damage to the home’s wall, causing a crack in the interior plaster within the room where an eight year-old boy was sleeping.

He has apologised to the family and will pay the estimated $100,000 in damages.

Mr Smith denied he was an alcoholic and claimed he did not have mental health issues, describing the incident as “an appalling lapse of judgment”.

“I certainly spoke to my GP about not ever drinking again, certainly whilst in public life,” he said.

“I don’t think I’m an alcoholic but I certainly have consumed too much alcohol on too many occasions.”

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy this week met with the reportedly distressed MP and made it clear he “wouldn’t find his way onto the frontbench of any parliamentary Liberal Party I lead”.

An angry Mr Guy said he told Mr Smith to not recontest the next election.

“I made it clear that I didn’t want him to nominate at the next election,” Mr Guy told reporters on Tuesday.

“I think he’s exceedingly remorseful, you know, this has potentially cost him his career and you would expect anyone in that position to be not just remorseful but certainly very sorry for what has occurred.”

While Mr Smith said his actions were “the most stupid thing I’ve ever done”, he declined to commit to quitting politics altogether, instead telling the radio station he was reflecting on his future in politics.

It’s expected he will make a decision the next two weeks before preselection nominations.

Mr Smith has been meeting with Kew branch members and senior politicians and has reportedly told some he will ride out the scandal.

“The (branch members) are very disappointed, they’re very angry and I suppose the key question to them is should one horrendously poor judgment render someone’s career over immediately,” he said.

“I can’t give you a definitive answer this morning, but I’m certainly speaking to the branch members in Kew.”

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Originally published as Liberal MP Tim Smith breaks silence following drink-driving scandal




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Cleo Smith found alive: Expert says discovery a ‘miracle’



A leading criminologist has described finding Cleo Smith alive as a ‘miracle’ before weighing in on the key that may have solved the case.

Finding missing four-year-old Cleo Smith alive was a “miracle” and “highly unusual” according to a leading criminologist.

“I had been expecting the worst,” Dr Xanthe Mallett told Sunrise just hours after Cleo was found at a home in Carnarvon in Western Australia.

“It is highly unusual to find an abducted child alive and well after so long. This is a miracle.”

Cleo went missing from a remote campsite in WA 18 days ago, sparking a wide-scale search and fears she had been abducted.

WA Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch released a statement on Wednesday morning announcing the extraordinary development.

He also revealed “phone data” helped lead police to the house where Cleo was found.

“It will become apparent when we put the puzzle together … it all led us to one place,” he told the Today show.

Cleo was found when officers dramatically broke into a locked house in Carnarvon in the early hours of the morning, he said.

Dr Mallett said she wasn’t completely surprised that there was finally a conclusion to the case that had baffled detectives for almost three weeks.

“Strategically, police seemed to be clear on where they were going,” she said.

“I am just incredibly pleased it is a positive outcome.”

She was then asked about the vehicle that was spotted leaving the carpark of the campsite just hours after Cleo was last seen by her parents.

Police said it was likely she was abducted in the dead of the night since the tent zip was opened to a height she could not have reached.

A major focus of the police investigation has a mystery vehicle that was spotted by two people.

They said it turned right off Blowholes Rd onto North West Coastal Highway, heading towards Carnarvon, between 3am and 3.30am the day Cleo disappeared.

“It may be that car that was the key to solving this … it may have been something else,” Dr Mallett said.

“They have looked closely in the local community. We always felt this was something targeted. To me, it made no sense this was a random.

“They have looked very closely at those in the community, those who possibly know Cleo. There will be a link to Cleo and her family. Over the next day or so, will find more about what has happened.”

Search crews combed the coastline near the remote camping ground where Cleo went missing, but efforts proved futile.

Police also examined CCTV footage from businesses and homes that might have captured the car or anything else that might be relevant to the investigation.

They then moved search efforts to Cleo’s parents home, which they searched three times. Police said her parents were not suspects and the move was “standard practice”.

Officers searched the home for several hours before leaving with two evidence bags.

A 36-year-old man is now in custody and being questioned by police after Cleo was found at his home in Carnarvon.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the man had no connection to the family.

Originally published as Criminologist describes finding Cleo alive a ‘miracle’ before touching on key evidence




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Cleo Smith miracle: Recovery of missing girl comes just two months after successful search for NSW boy Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak



The discovery of Cleo Smith has eerie similarities to toddler ‘AJ’, who was found four days after going missing.

Two months. Two missing children. Two successful searches.

As news of Cleo Smith’s safety reverberates across the nation, echoes of a similarly desperate – and ultimately successful – search are coming back around.

It was just 10 weeks ago that the family of three-year-old Anthony “AJ” Elfalak feared the worst after the non-verbal autistic boy went missing near his home in the NSW Hunter Valley.

But after being lost in rugged bushland for three days, a blurry image taken from a police helicopter showed him drinking muddy water at a creek on September 6.

The boy’s reunion with his family triggered a wave of emotional scenes as family members threw their hands in the air, screaming and crying from happiness and relief.

“Thank you for everyone. Thank you for the government. Thank you for the police. Thank you very much,” AJ‘s mum Kelly told Nine News at the time.

Australians were similarly united in joy after waking to the news on Wednesday that Cleo Smith had been recovered “alive and well” from a locked house in Carnarvon, having been missing for 18 days.

Detectives found Cleo in the early hours of the morning, about 70km from the campsite at the Quobba Blowholes where the four-year-old disappeared.

“A police team broke their way into a locked house in Carnarvon about 1am (Perth time). They found little Cleo in one of the rooms,” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said in a statement.

“One of the officers picked her up into his arms and asked her ‘what’s your name?’ She said, ‘My name is Cleo’.”

Cleo was reunited with her parents a short time later, with her mother Ellie acknowledging her recovery by sharing a photo of Cleo on Instagram.

“Our family is whole again,” she wrote.

A 36-year-old Carnarvon man with no connection to the family has been taken into custody and is being questioned over the incident.

The seemingly fruitless effort to locate the missing girl involved hundreds of police officers searching vast swathes of the countryside and hundreds of kilometres of roadside bins for evidence, with thousands of calls coming in to CrimeStoppers during the nearly three-week ordeal.

Similarly, the recovery of AJ back in September involved a co-ordinated multi-agency response, with assistance from trail bike officers, police rescue, the dog unit, police divers and PolAir.

Police were assisted by NSW Ambulance, State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service, and the Volunteer Rescue Association, while more than 100 emergency service workers and volunteers also helped with the search.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old William Callaghan was returned to his family in July last year after spending two nights lost in freezing temperatures at Mount Disappointment north of Melbourne.

The boy, who has non-verbal autism, was found by volunteers and spent a short time in hospital before being released.

Originally published as Miracle Cleo Smith news comes just two months after successful search for missing NSW boy Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak




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