Tas line-up not based on allegiance: Abetz

Veteran Liberal Eric Abetz denies it was a case of camp Abbott versus camp Turnbull when the party’s Tasmania executive settled on a Senate line-up demoting minister Richard Colbeck.

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A weekend preselection process put the minister for tourism and international education at number five on the party ticket and means he may only have an outside chance of keeping his Senate spot if there’s a double dissolution election in July.

Senator Abetz, a backer of former prime minister Tony Abbott, is in the top spot.

He’s followed by Senate president Stephen Parry, newcomer Jonathon Duniam and chief Senate whip David Bushby, before Senator Colbeck gets the nod with north Tasmanian farmer and local government councillor John Tucker taking the final spot.

Senator Colbeck is the only Tasmanian federal MP who didn’t show public support for Mr Abbott in September when he was challenged by Malcolm Turnbull.

But Senator Abetz insists Senator Colbeck is in an “eminently winnable” position, arguing the ticket line-up represents renewal.

“If we didn’t have renewal in the team, people would be criticising us for having a stale team,” the 22-year parliamentary veteran told ABC radio on Monday.

“Now that we do have renewal in the team, people are commenting on people being pushed down the ticket.”

The senator denied there was an Abbott-Turnbull divide.

“Everybody within the Liberal team supports the Liberal party and its leader, the prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, so let there be no suggestion otherwise,” Senator Abetz said.

After Saturday’s vote by 65 party preselectors, Tasmania state president Geoff Page confirmed the Liberal Senate line-up.

Senator Colbeck, who is in China on government business, issued a brief statement acknowledging the new-look ticket.

“We now need to move to the next step of ensuring the Tasmanian community understands the commitment of the Liberal team to the strong economy, jobs, well-being and prosperity of the state,” he said.

“My objective has always been to ensure the strongest representation for Tasmania in the Australian parliament – this will remain my focus.”

Telstra’s NBN work raises eyebrows

A $1.

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6 billion deal between Telstra and the company building the national broadband network has prompted concern within the competition regulator.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has raised several issues with the telecom giant and NBN Co, including that Telstra “may receive a competitive advantage if it has access to better information than other service providers”.

The ACCC is also worried Telstra will be able to use NBN infrastructure before it’s available to competitors, chairman Rod Sims said.

“We are looking at the parties’ proposals carefully to consider to what extent these proposals address our concerns,” Mr Sims said on Monday.

“It is important that Telstra doesn’t get a head-start selling retail services over the NBN just because its technical expertise is being used in the construction and maintenance of the NBN.”

Telstra on Monday announced it had secured a $1.6 billion deal to help build the national broadband network in five state capitals and the Gold Coast.

The so-called Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial deal – which follows a memorandum of understanding in December – covers planning, design, construction and construction management services within the telco giant’s existing network.

“Telstra has a long and proud history in network construction and we believe we will bring great expertise to this important part of the NBN network,” Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn said.

In late 2015, Telstra was awarded two contracts as one of the NBN service and assurance providers. The work has started.

Telstra is also working with NBN Co on a 1,000-node trial, including Fibre To The Node design and construction, as well as further design work under a planning and design services agreement.

The ACCC on Monday said it had had “extensive and productive discussions with NBN and Telstra”, aimed at addressing concerns that could arise because of the agreement.

NBN Co and Telstra recently provided a set of proposals aimed at addressing the ACCC’s concerns.

“We were very mindful of these perceived issues when we structured the deal and have also offered the ACCC additional measures around monitoring and reporting back to the ACCC,” a NBN spokesperson said.

The $1.6 billion HFC agreement – which covers Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and the Gold Coast, – isn’t subject to ACCC approval, according to the NBN spokesperson. The work is expected to continue through 2020.

At 1317 AEST, Telstra shares were down 2.00 cents, or 0.39 per cent, at $5.14 in a lower Australian market.

Clinic accused of alleged steroids scam

Elite Victorian police officers sought treatment at a Melbourne sports medicine and anti-ageing clinic accused of running an alleged testosterone and anabolic steroids trafficking racket.

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The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard on Monday two members of the Special Operations Group visited the Melbourne Sports Medicine and Anti-ageing clinic for treatment between 2012 and 2013.

The clinic owner, Robin James Taylor, his partner Georgina Matta, of South Morang, receptionist Amy Lee Gorgievski, of Pascoe Vale, and doctor Hoong Pan Sze-Tho, of Bulla, were in court for a committal mention.

They each face numerous charges including trafficking anabolic steroids and prescribing testosterone for other than medical treatment.

One of the officers, who cannot be named, told the court he was given two different peptides by Mr Taylor after seeing him about blood test results.

One of the drugs was Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 6 (GHRP6)- commonly used by bodybuilders for weight loss, increased bone density and increased cellular repair.

The officer had gone there for a health check and was told blood tests would identify whether he needed treatment. He does not remember the results.

Dr Sze-Tho was in the consulting room at the time, but did not speak to the officer or provide him with a prescription for the drugs.

Mr Taylor is not a registered medical practitioner.

The court also heard police investigated the clinic after a pharmacist called them in 2013 with concerns over a hand written script.

The pharmacist, who asked not to be named, told Magistrate Johanna Metcalf the script from Dr Sze-Tho was for 30 vials of Sustanon 250, a drug commonly used by people with low levels of testosterone.

The script “rang alarm bells” because the doctor usually used computer-generated scripts, then when the pharmacist called the clinic listed on the document they informed her he had not worked there for 10 years.

Sze-Tho faces 240 charges including trafficking anabolic steroids and prescribing testosterone for other than medical treatment.

Taylor faces 72 charges including trafficking other anabolic steroids, importing prohibited goods and obtaining property by deception by purporting to be a licensed medical practitioner.

Matta is charged with 55 similar offences. Gorgievski also faces numerous charges.

Police allege all offences occurred between January 2012 and October 2013.

The hearing is expected to continue on Tuesday.

Demons face Kangaroos after big AFL win

Now they’ve shown their backbone, Melbourne need consistency.

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The Demons will host North Melbourne in Sunday’s AFL match at the MCG following a tumultuous week.

After learning their teammate Jesse Hogan has cancer, they rallied at Adelaide Oval last weekend to shock the Crows and post their best win of the season so far.

On Tuesday, Hogan’s surgery to remove a tumour was successful and he could be back playing in as few as four to eight weeks.

Meanwhile, the season rolls on and the Demons, who have a 4-4 record, will start warm favourites against the Kangaroos (2-6).

But Melbourne remain without a recognised ruckman and North’s Todd Goldstein is one of the best in the game.

The Demons also have a 15-game losing streak against the ‘Roos.

And while the Crows win showcased their finals credentials, the Demons also narrowly lost to Hawthorn the week before.

North, who are better than their record suggests, will rightly fancy their chances of an upset.

Melbourne forwards coach Troy Chaplin said a big part of this week’s preparations was making sure the players thought about why they played so well against Adelaide.

“What were the one or two things individually and as a group that the guys can continue to drive this week?” Chaplin said.

“Whether it’s our leader or our second-tier players, they need to understand that it doesn’t matter who you play – you need to bring that week in, week out to get the result.

“Otherwise, you’re going to have an up-and-down season.”

Setting aside the enormity of what Hogan continues to go through, his extended absence is obviously a challenge for Chaplin and the Melbourne forwards.

As Chaplin notes, Hogan is the sort of forward who demands the ball.

But Hogan has only played four games this season and Melbourne are the fifth-best scoring side.

Small forward Jeff Garlett leads Melbourne’s goalkicking with 20.

Chaplin, the former backman in his first season as an AFL assistant coach, does not care who kicks the goals.

“The more guys we get having an impact, the harder we become as a group to defend (against),” he said.

“We’re no doubt a better team when Jesse is in it, that’s certain, but at the same time it’s a great opportunity for the guys to pick up the slack.

“To the guys’ credit, they’ve done that when those opportunities have arisen this year.

“The guys have really taken on the ‘team first’ approach and looking after each other.”

Times Square driver ‘smoked PCP-laced pot’

A US man who was behind the wheel of the car that barrelled through pedestrians in Times Square told police he had been smoking marijuana laced with PCP, according to a criminal complaint.

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Richard Rojas, 26, made his first court appearance on Friday, a day after he was arrested in what New York police call an intentional attack that killed an 18-year-old Michigan woman and injured 22 other people.

“He murdered in cold blood,” Assistant District Attorney Harrison Schweiloch said during the brief proceeding.

Rojas did not enter a plea and was held without bail.

His next court appearance is May 24.

Rojas, who lived with his mother in the Bronx, is accused of driving his car from his home through Times Square on Thursday, then making a U-turn, steering his car onto a footpath and roaring back along it, ploughing through tourists for three blocks before crashing into protective barriers.

Photographers snapped pictures of a wild-eyed Rojas after he climbed from the wrecked car and ran through the street waving his arms.

After he was detained, he said he wanted to “kill them all” and police should have shot him to stop him, a prosecutor told the court.

Officials are awaiting toxicology results, though Rojas “had glassy eyes, slurred speech, and was unsteady”, during his arrest.

The hallucinogenic drug PCP can cause users to become delusional, violent or suicidal, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.

Three people were still in critical condition with serious head injuries.

Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan, was killed in the crash and her 13-year-old sister was among the injured.

No Qld camp for reserve Milford: Bennett

Queensland coach Kevin Walters has joked that he will send a box of chocolates in a bid to convince Wayne Bennett to release Anthony Milford for their State of Origin camp.

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But Brisbane coach Bennett was deadly serious about stopping Milford, saying he would only make him available for Maroons duty if the Broncos five-eighth was picked in Queensland’s top 17.

Walters is on Monday expected to name Milford as 19th man in Queensland’s squad for May 31’s series opener as cover for pivot Johnathan Thurston (shoulder).

A tug of war over Milford loomed when Bennett mentioned his stance before the Broncos playmaker shone in their 36-0 NRL win over Wests Tigers on Friday night.

Walters would not bite when told of Bennett’s comments on Friday night as he watched the Broncos romp nome as a Fox Sports TV commentator.

“I have got a box of chocolates for Wayne to drop off to his place,” Walters joked.

“But Milford is one of those players in the firing line just if Thurston doesn’t pass his medical.”

Bennett dug his heels in about Milford when asked about the five-eighth’s Origin availability after the Broncos rout.

He reiterated that Milford would travel with Brisbane for their next round clash with the Warriors if named on a Maroons extended bench.

Bennett said back-up playmaker Michael Morgan’s expected presence at the Maroons camp would ensure Queensland “don’t lose anything” if Milford was not present.

“My position is extremely firm on that,” he said.

“They have Morgan there.

“If he (Milford) doesn’t go and train with them they don’t lose anything.

“We’ve got a game in Auckland next week, that’s our priority.”

Bennett did expect to lose up to six players to Queensland duty.

Walters is expected to name Melbourne’s comeback king Billy Slater at fullback, shifting incumbent Maroons No.1 and Brisbane skipper Darius Boyd to the left wing.

Bennett said Boyd should be retained at fullback.

“The way the coach is talking they will stick with him at either wing or fullback,” Bennett said of Boyd.

“They have just got to make a decision. Billy is still great, but they play different games.

“Darius is what you are looking for. You just have to go back to last year’s series, the amount of tries he set up in really tight situations.

“He does it better than anyone else…and he’s safe. Look at the stats and see how many mistakes he has made.”

Six siblings heirs to Prince estate: judge

A Minnesota judge has ruled that Prince’s six siblings are the heirs to his estate.

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In a ruling made public Friday, Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide declared that Prince died without a will and that his sister, Tyka Nelson, and five half-siblings are his heirs.

There are people who filed appeals after their claims of heirship were rejected. Eide said that if the appellate courts send those cases back to him, he will still fully consider them.

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Eide also said Prince’s assets won’t be distributed without a formal court order and that nothing will be distributed that might adversely affect the claims of those with pending appeals.

Eide had previously said he wouldn’t declare the siblings as heirs until those appeals had been decided. Attorneys for those who appealed said their interests would be harmed if the district court didn’t wait out the appeals process.

But lawyers for Prince’s siblings didn’t want to wait, saying further delays would have increased costs to the estate and impede its efficient administration.

Prince died April 21 of an accidental drug overdose. Court filings suggest his estate is worth around $200 million. Federal and state estate taxes are expected to consume about half the value.

Meanwhile, Universal Music Group and Comerica Bank, the manager of Prince’s estate, are moving ahead with plans to terminate the $31 million recorded-music deal announced earlier this year.

On Thursday Comerica Bank, the estate’s manager, filed a motion to approve rescission of the the agreement based on “claims of conflicting rights to sound recordings.”

According to an announcement at the time, those recordings comprised most of Prince’s released work after he ended his initial deal with Warner Bros in 1996 as well as unreleased material, but also rights to certain recordings within that initial Warner deal; Warner is disputing those terms. The motion will be presented before Judge Eide on May 31.

Confusion over the February deal began as soon as it was announced.

The announcement said that “beginning [in 2018], UMG will obtain US rights to certain renowned Prince albums released from 1979 to 1995” – his most successful period by far, including the 1999, Purple Rain, Parade, Batman, and Diamonds and Pearls albums.

However, Prince had cut a new deal with Warner in 2014 that sources say garnered him the rights to the majority of his work released on the label.

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Rod Pampling on the move at Byron Nelson

Australia’s Rod Pampling made four birdies in five holes in a mid-round surge during the Byron Nelson Classic in Texas.

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After starting his round with six consecutive pars, Pampling went on an impressive run, starting with a 2m birdie putt on the par-5 seventh.

The 47-year-old backed it up with longer birdie putts at the par-4 eighth and ninth holes.

Pampling also made a birdie at the par-4 11th before dropping a shot at the par-4 14th.

The veteran Queenslander is eight shots behind runaway leader, American Jason Kokrak.

Kokrak’s collection of four birdies on his outward nine was matched on the run home at TPC Four Seasons in a bogey-free round of 62.

He holds a five-shot lead over fellow American Billy Horschel who backed up an opening round 68 with a five-under par 65.

Jason Day had a promising round going until the par-five 16th hole when he lost his ball off the tee and took a double-bogey to finish at three-under, nine shots off the pace after carding a one-under 69.

Marc Leishman and Greg Chalmers will also be in action at the weekend after they both had rounds of 71 to be at one-under.

World No.1 Dustin Johnson is within striking distance after shooting a second consecutive three-under-par 67 to be six-under at the halfway mark of the tournament.

One man who will not be around for the weekend, though, is Jordan Spieth after he missed the cut following a bogey-laden 75.

It was on the par-5 16th where the real damage was done as he had to take three tee shots on his way to a nine after sending his first two attempts out of bounds.

Reigning champion and recent Masters winner Sergio Garcia is 10 shots off the lead despite a superb round of 65, recovering from what was a poor first round.

Trump aims to mend Muslim ties on first foreign trip

Trump can expect a warm reception when he arrives in the oil-rich kingdom for talks with King Salman, but the domestic mood was grim following news that the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia extends to a current senior White House official.

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Former FBI director James Comey has agreed to publicly testify about the probe, piling pressure on the White House as fresh allegations emerged about Trump calling him a “nut job” in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week and saying his sacking had relieved “great pressure”. 

Before departing, the president tweeted he would be “strongly protecting American interests” on his marathon eight-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, that presents a major diplomatic test.

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While his predecessor Barack Obama was viewed with suspicion by Gulf Arab states for his tilt towards their Shiite regional rival Iran, Trump is likely to take a harder line against Tehran.

That, together with a more muted focus on human rights and the likely announcement of new arms deals, should please Washington’s traditional Sunni Gulf allies.

“He’s going to be tougher on Iran,” said Philip Gordon, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“He’s not going to lecture them on democracy and human rights,” he added.

Ahead of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he will be accompanied by his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka, Washington and Riyadh issued their first “joint terrorist designation” – blacklisting a leader of the Iranian-backed Lebanese armed Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Late Friday, Saudi Arabia announced it had shot down a ballistic missile fired by Yemeni rebels southwest of Riyadh. 

The US provides weapons, intelligence and aerial refuelling to the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Huthi rebels, who are backed by Iran and oppose the government of Yemen President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

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Trump’s relations with the wider Islamic world are still strained by his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority nations.

So all eyes will be on a speech on Islam that the president is scheduled to deliver to dozens of Muslim leaders at a summit in Riyadh on Sunday.

“I’ll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith,” Trump said ahead of his visit.

Trump wants Gulf states in particular to do more to tackle extremists such as the Islamic State jihadist group.

“He will encourage our Arab and Muslim partners to take bold, new steps to promote peace and to confront those, from ISIS to Al-Qaeda… who perpetuate chaos and violence that has inflicted so much suffering throughout the Muslim world and beyond,” said Trump’s National Security Adviser HR McMaster.

He will hold countless face-to-face meetings including with Pope Francis and France’s new leader, Emmanuel Macron.

It is a trip fraught with peril for the real estate magnate, who is known to dislike lengthy travel.

The avalanche of revelations in the run-up to his departure have eroded Trump’s standing at home – where the parallels with Richard Nixon’s ill-fated presidency are now being openly drawn.

On Friday, a report by The Washington Post that the probe into his campaign’s Russia ties had identified a “significant person of interest” in the White House, undercut Trump’s insistence his election bid had nothing to do with the Kremlin.

The White House was rocked by another bombshell when reports emerged that Trump said his firing of “nut job” Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him due to the investigation.

The scandals have revived questions about his ability to strike a presidential tone with his foreign counterparts, with Trump declaring himself the victim of the “greatest witch hunt” in American political history.

Arms contracts

His visit to the Gulf is expected to bring lucrative arms contracts for US firms.

“The big question mark that you should bear in mind is if Saudi Arabia signs up for a $100 billion arms deal with oil prices where they are today, how are they actually going to pay that in the future?” said Bruce Riedel, former CIA analyst and counterterrorism expert now with the Brookings Institution.

After Saudi Arabia, Trump will head to Israel and the Palestinian Territories where he hopes to revive the moribund peace process.

He will meet his “friend” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem.

The Israeli leg of his trip is already awash in controversy – from a row over Trump’s visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the holiest prayer site for Jews, to his alleged disclosure of Israeli intelligence to Russian officials.

Trump’s meeting with Pope Francis – two men at odds on everything from climate change to refugee policy – remains highly unpredictable, although the pontiff says he will give America’s bullish leader an open-minded hearing.

The president will also meet members of the North Atlantic alliance in Brussels and attend a G7 summit in the picturesque Sicilian town of Taormina overlooking the Mediterranean.

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Sam Mitchell on track for AFL record

He’s already won four premierships and a Brownlow medal, but West Coast midfielder Sam Mitchell will be in a league of his own if he can produce another big performance in Sunday’s AFL clash with Essendon at Etihad Stadium.

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Mitchell has reached the 30-disposal mark an astonishing 118 times over his glittering career.

It’s the equal most on record in VFL/AFL history – tying the mark set by St Kilda’s Robert Harvey.

Mitchell has the chance to snare the outright record against the Bombers, and his confidence is high, coming off a 33-disposal match in last week’s win over the Bulldogs.

West Coast coach Adam Simpson said Mitchell’s achievement was remarkable.

And although Harvey took 69 more games to reach the same mark, Simpson pointed out that the St Kilda legend was tagged more often than Mitchell.

“I would assume Harvey would have been tagged every week,” Simpson said.

“I remember tagging him (and he still had) 30-plus a couple of times back in the day.

“It’s a different era, but it’s a fair effort by Sam. It’s a sign of his consistency.”

The Eagles have won three straight games to shoot into the top-four.

And although their form at the MCG remains a concern, they’ve proven they can win on the road after posting triumphs over North Melbourne (Etihad Stadium) and Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval).

Eagles spearhead Josh Kennedy had a wayward outing in last week’s win over the Bulldogs, booting 3.6.

Simpson is confident it was just a rare blip for Kennedy, rather than the start of a worrying trend.

“It’s not a pattern,” Simpson said.

“He’s had games where he’s kicked 10 straight.

“He’s probably our best preparer in terms of how he goes about it off field with the mindset and how he prepares for the opposition.

“We’ll back him in to get it right.”

Essendon coach John Worsfold decided to stick with the same 22 who beat Geelong last week.

West Coast resisted the urge to recall fit-again veteran Drew Petrie.

The 34-year-old has made an early recovery from a broken hand, but will have to prove his fitness in the WAFL before earning a senior call-up.

Forward Jamie Cripps is back after recovering from an ankle injury, with fellow goalsneak Josh Hill forced to make way.

Cleaners’ wage fight at Vic ALP conference

Angry cleaners have confronted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews over what they claim is systemic wage theft in the public school sector at Labor’s state conference.

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United Voice officials and members held aloft a banner reading “Rip off, Victoria – The Wage Theft State” at the front of the conference in Melbourne on Saturday.

Others waved mock number plates carrying the slogan as Mr Andrews spoke to the crowded conference room at Moonee Valley Racecourse.

While talking about creating more employment opportunities including a new Victorian Jobs Partnership, Mr Andrews didn’t, however, address the issue.

The union says hundreds of “backyard operators” are ripping off state school cleaners with an audit finding 80 per cent are being paid below the award wage.

“We estimate the total wage theft bill to be up to $10 million a year, out of the pay packets of the state’s 4000 school cleaners,” United Voice state secretary Jess Walsh said in a resolution after Mr Andrews left.

Labor members also railed against the government over its plan to get the private sector on board to help roll out the national disability insurance scheme.

Unions and parents are worried that by including the private sector, the quality of worker conditions and client services will decline.

Last November central branch members were stripped of their rights to vote for candidate preselection and conference delegates after a branch stacking scandal and investigation.

A bid to restore those rights on Saturday was unsuccessful.

However the conference did vote to bring in affirmative action measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander preselection.

Earlier, when announcing his new Victorian Jobs Partnership, Mr Andrews said there would be a summit of experts to create a new jobs road map.

The talkfest of 50 experts, including 25 from unions, will work to grow local manufacturing, industry assistance initiatives, fill skill gaps and push more women into construction and engineering.

Mr Andrews also pushed the benefits of his CFA split plan.

In order to circumvent a CFA pay deal deadlock, the government announced on Friday it would make the fire service volunteers-only and create a new authority for career CFA firefighters to merge with their metropolitan counterparts.

The conference runs over two days, with federal Labor leader Bill Shorten to speak on Sunday.

Italy law obliges parents to vaccinate

Italy’s cabinet has approved a law obliging parents to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases as politicians spar over a spike in measles cases.

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Children up to six years old will now need to be immunised to be eligible for nursery school, and parents who send their children to school after that age without vaccinating them first will be liable for fines.

Vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and meningitis, which were previously only recommended, will now become mandatory, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.

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“The lack of appropriate measures over the years and the spread of anti-scientific theories, especially in recent months, has brought about a reduction in protection,” Gentiloni told a news conference in Rome.

The law will also oblige inoculation against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, whooping cough, and haemophilus influenzae type B.

Italy’s Higher Health Institute warned in April that a fall-off in vaccinations had led to a measles epidemic. The United States warned visitors to Italy about exposure to the potentially fatal disease.

The institute has recorded some 2395 measles cases so far this year compared with some 840 in all of 2016 and 250 in 2015.

The website of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive, says it encourages all member states to “ensure that as many children as possible receive the main childhood vaccines”.

Gentiloni’s centre-left government has accused the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of sowing fear among parents by questioning the safety of some vaccines and the scruples of multinational pharmaceutical firms.

5-Star members, who run Rome’s city hall, abstained on Thursday from a vote on obliging schoolchildren in the capital to be vaccinated, stoking fresh controversy over their stance.

“5-Star is riding the wave of disinformation, nourishing fear and favouring a position that is anti-science and dangerous for the whole community,” said Federico Gelli, a deputy from the ruling Democratic Party.

Paola Ferrara, 5-Star’s leader in city hall, said the party had abstained because of the pending vote in parliament, and considered vaccinations “essential”.

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Beach protesters say no to Bight drilling

Ocean-loving protesters have linked hands across the nation’s beaches in a bid to protect the Great Australian Bight from oil and gas drilling.

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Hundreds lined the sands at more than a dozen beaches in five states for Hands Across the Sands events on Saturday, including at Melbourne’s St Kilda, Adelaide’s Glenelg and Fremantle’s Bathers Beach.

They called on the Liberal and Labor parties to protect the southern waters and wildlife from the risks of oil and gas exploration.

Former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown spoke at the Adelaide event, saying a major oil spill in the Bight would be environmentally devastating.

“The Bight is one of the most intact natural ecosystems left on earth,” Dr Brown said.

“Such a spill here would wreck the South Australian, Victorian and Tasmanian coastlines, including the Tarkine.”

Wilderness Society’s SA director Peter Owen said Australia’s major parties must join the Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon in saying no to drilling.

“Both major parties seem more interested in imaginary oil and gas industry jobs than the 10,000 real fishing and tourism jobs in South Australia’s coastal regions that would be threatened by an oil spill,” he said.

Hands Across the Sand started in the US after energy giant BP spilled about 800 million litres of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days, killing millions of fish and an estimated 75,000 dolphins and whales.

The Bight is home to sea lions, migratory birds, sharks, dolphins, giant cuttlefish and dozens of whale species, including an important southern right whale nursery.