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

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Kevin Anderson grilled over Aya Eliza, Atmosphere defective apartment buildings in Western Sydney

Prospective homebuyers are not being warned of the potential flaws in several ‘notorious’ Sydney apartment buildings.

Homebuyers are not being warned about the potential risks of purchasing apartments in “notoriously” flawed Sydney towers, months after their defects were revealed.

Apartments in the Aya Eliza towers in Auburn and the Atmosphere building in Castle Hill, which have respectively been under “prohibition orders” since March and June, are being advertised for sale for between $430,000 and $820,000.

These NSW Fair Trading restrictions mean the occupation certificates that people require to move into a new building can’t be issued to homebuyers.

NSW Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson couldn’t explain at a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday what action he had taken since then to ensure that homebuyers were aware if buildings were under prohibition orders.

Four months have passed since NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler publicly described the Aya Eliza towers as the worst building he had ever inspected.

Mr Chandler told the hearing the Atmosphere and Aya Eliza buildings each housed more than 200 apartments.

He said they were the only developments under prohibition orders that had people living in them.

The prohibition orders on these buildings meant that only “interim” but not “final” occupation certificates could be issued to people who bought apartments in them.

Goodenia Developments, whose director is the founder of Western Sydney high-rise apartment developer Merhis Group, is behind the 16-storey Aya Eliza building at 93 Auburn Road that has been subject to a multiple complaints.

Toplace Group was ordered in June to fix cladding issues on the Atmosphere apartment block at 299-309 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill over waterproofing concerns that could cause “dangerous conditions” for residents.

Mr Chandler said on Wednesday that while both complexes were “habitable”, it was “not desirable” for people to be buying into defective buildings.

Speaking at the hearing, Labor MP Courtney Houssos asked Mr Anderson what he had done since June to ensure homebuyers were informed of potential defects.

“A series of apartments were raised with you four months ago, properties that were for sale that were not disclosing important information,” she said.

She claimed real estate agents were failing to disclose that the “notorious” buildings were under prohibition orders in their advertisements and when speaking to prospective homebuyers or tenants.

“There are currently two properties that are for sale in the Atmosphere building, which don’t disclose that they are subject of prohibition orders,” she said.

“And I can let you know that I spoke to the real estate agent this morning and he made no disclosure of the prohibition orders.”

Ms Houssos said the Real Estate Institute of NSW had told her there was very little knowledge of prohibition orders among agents.

“The peak body for real estate agents is telling you there’s a problem. It was raised four months ago on the front page of a major metropolitan newspaper,” she said.

“And it appears that your government’s response to protect apartment owners from buying into deeply defective buildings is to say ‘we’ll send a couple of emails to real estate agents’.”

Mr Anderson said he would investigate and that vendors and real estate agents were obliged to disclose this information to buyers.

He said the Perrottet government would imminently announce its appointment to the new role of property services commissioner, who will further scrutinise the industry.

The watchdog would look at the “areas that needed to be fixed” and improve communication between developers, real estate agents and homebuyers.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Mark Banasiak asked what regulatory powers the commissioner would have.

“Looking at something isn’t really a power. Once they’ve finished looking at it, what specific powers or enforcement action will they be able to take?” he asked.

Greens MP David Shoebridge suggested: “X-Ray vision”.

Mr Anderson said he considered the new commissioner’s role “very seriously” and that they would be given the resources to do their role.

Originally published as Kevin Anderson grilled over regulations on selling ‘notorious’ defective Sydney apartment buildings

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WA cop who fatally shot young Aboriginal mother found not guilty of murder

A policeman who fatally shot a young Aboriginal mother in the middle of a suburban street has been found not guilty of murder.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains images of a person who has died.

A policeman who fatally shot a young Aboriginal mother in the middle of a suburban street has been found not guilty of murder.

JC, whose full name is not used for cultural reasons, was killed on September 17, 2019 in the Geraldton suburb of Rangeway by an officer whose identity has been suppressed by the Supreme Court of Western Australia, where he had been on trial since October 5.

The court heard the 29-year-old woman was felled by a single shot to the abdomen, dying in hospital less than two hours after police were first called and told someone was walking around brandishing a knife.

Within moments, eight police officers swarmed to the scene in three marked vehicles with sirens blaring, while the accused was in the passenger seat of an unmarked police car.

Five of the officers remained in their vehicles, one got out to approach JC unarmed – believing he could talk her down – the accused ran out of his car, drawing his gun, and another officer also ran towards her pointing an unactivated Taser.

Just 33 seconds after one of the first two officers to arrive at the scene radioed in to say the armed offender was JC, she asked for an ambulance, saying “one shot fired”.

Prosecutor Amanda Forrester told the jury in her opening address that JC still had the knife in one hand as well as a small pair of scissors in the other when she – according to various accounts – either moved her arms, stepped toward police or didn’t move at all.

Defence counsel Linda Black argued JC was close enough to rush forward and stab her client or the unarmed officer, and while her feet did not move, she held the knife up, brandishing it and “needed to be taken down”.

Ms Black argued her client was “not some trigger happy constable” but an officer who followed his training, wanted to protect his colleague and was “brave enough to risk his own career, his own life”.

The court heard JC had been repeatedly told during the stand-off to put down the knife and was warned she would be Tasered if she did not.

JC had been struggling with life after prison, was greatly distressed she did not have custody of her young son, and had both mental health and substance abuse issues involving methylamphetamine, cannabis and alcohol.

She had threatened to take her own life on multiple occasions, was aggressive towards others and foreshadowed she would die on the day she was fatally shot, the court heard.

The jury was shown CCTV footage of the shooting, captured from a home 65m away.

Emotional supporters gathered outside court after the verdict, expressing their disappointment.

One of them was JC’s foster mother.

“Six years of age he was when he found out his mother died,” she said gesturing to JC’s young son, who stood alongside her with tears streaming down his face.

“Don’t ever ask for a welfare check on your family when they are in a mental health state.”

One woman told reporters: “I’m so tired … I just want white Australia to understand, to get more of our history and understand why our people are so sad and sorry”.

A man, who identified himself as an Aboriginal elder, said there was “no justice” for Indigenous deaths in custody.

“We will mount another big rally for this. Mark my words,” he said, referring to the chaos that erupted on Geraldton streets after news of JC’s death emerged.

Ms Black was heckled by JC’s supporters as she left court, flanked by police.

“Very sadly, a young lady lost her life and he (the officer) has had no opportunity to be able to express his sorrow for that – he would like to do that today, to say how sad he is,” she told reporters.

“My client was a serving officer who did his job and he did it to the best of his ability.”

As a small number of JC’s supporters gathered outside Geraldton courthouse, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said he was aware that “emotions are running high” and urged people to remain calm and respect the jury’s decision.

He said the “tragedy” marked one of the “most difficult chapters in history” between Aboriginal people in WA and the police force.

“My thoughts are with all people involved in this case. I’m sorry that JC lost her life and I’ll once again express my condolences to her family,” he told reporters.

“Frankly, there are no winners in this case. This case demonstrates that each of us in the community are subject to the same judicial process.”

He said JC’s death would be examined at a coronial inquest.

It is believed to be the first time a police officer was charged with murder in the line of duty in almost 100 years in WA.

The officer was stood down while awaiting trial.

Originally published as Policeman who fatally shot young Aboriginal mother found not guilty of murder

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