Fresh debate on same-sex marriage as doctors announce support

A fresh fight has broken out over marriage equality after the Australian Medical Association came out in support for bipartisan change.

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President Michael Gannon has penned letters to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor leader Bill Shorten, calling for a bipartisan approach to the issue.

“It is often forgotten that, at the core of this debate, are real people and families. It’s time to put an end to this protracted, damaging debate so that they can get on with their lives,” Dr Gannon said in a statement on Saturday.

As long as discrimination against LGBTIQ Australians continues, they’ll suffer poorer health outcomes as a result 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/4WaI12K0YY pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/vmJ0vYiGEj

— AMA Media (@ama_media) May 20, 2017

“As long as the discrimination against LGBTIQ people continues, they will continue to experience poorer health outcomes as a result.”

Marriage equality advocates and deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek welcomed the AMA’s statement.

“The AMA has highlighted what we have known for many years – legal inequality leads directly to poorer health outcomes for LGBTI people,” just.equal spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Teoh said.

“I know that a lot of doctors … had grave concerns about what a plebiscite would do to the mental health of people who would be subjected to public discussion and assessment of the worth of their relationships,” Ms Plibersek told reporters in Sydney.

She said the parliament could legislate for marriage equality when it resumed next week if it wanted to – a claim echoed by Greens leader Richard Di Natale, a doctor himself.

“The prime minister should listen to Australia’s doctors and act now to remove discrimination, which will make our society more equal and more healthy,” he said.

But cabinet minister Simon Birmingham, who is a supporter of same-sex marriage, said parliament was denied the opportunity of giving the people a say, “which, if that had happened through a national plebiscite, would have been resolved by now”.

“Just as the AMA is entitled to their view, we want to give all Australians an opportunity to have their say too,” he told reporters in Adelaide.

The coalition maintained its policy of holding a national vote, he said.

“If Bill Shorten got out of the way the Australian people could have that say,” Senator Birmingham said.

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From model to role model: Lois Peeler on inspiring the next generation of Indigenous Australians

On the surface, it’s an unlikely transition, but for former model and songstress of The Sapphires fame, Lois Peeler, activism and teaching are also literally in her blood.

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Her own life-of-contrasts began in northern Victoria in the 1940’s, sometimes with stints on Cummeragunga Mission, home to renowned Indigenous leaders like Uncle William Cooper and Sir Doug Nicholls.

Ms Peeler says the role models from whom she took direction were strong, influential women from within her own family. 

“An aunt of mine, Hillis Briggs, actually has a school operating on the banks of the Murray River after the people walked off in protest, so there was a lot of that sort of leadership that came out of the Cumeragunga Aboriginal Reserve,” she said.

 

Cynthia, Thelma and Lois at CumeragungaSupplied

But it would be some time before Lois Peeler would immerse herself in education and activism.

In the 1960’s she became Australia’s first Aboriginal model, then joined the now famous band The Sapphires touring war-raved Vietnam, as imortalised in the 2012 film.

Ms Peeler considers the production “mostly accurate – with some artistic licence” and concedes it gives her some “street-cred” with the student body she presides over at the all-Aboriginal girl’s school Worowa College on the outskirts of Melbourne.

Ms Peeler says her unorthodox backstory engages the teenage students at Worowa.   

“What they like to hear about is what it was like living on the reserve, coming from that reserve how I overcome whatever those challenges were at that time, and of course they like the glamour part of it as well,” she said.

Lois Peeler was a model before joining The Sapphires, and later becoming a teacher.Supplied

Catherine O’Sullivan is Vice Chancellor at Bond University, and has participated in a program for Indigenous leaders, known as ‘Yarning Up’, which won the Queensland Reconciliation Award and featured a presentation from Lois Peeler.

Ms O’Sullivan says Ms Peeler’s words mesmerised the audience.

“It was quite extraordinary, she was like a rock-star up there so it was another added layer I guess to provide that added motivation and incentive to young people in such an isolated community,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

And Ms Peeler says that’s precisely the message she tries to impart on the students at Worowa College who come to the school from a range of remote communities across Australia.

“I tell them about having pride in who they are in their Aboriginal identity – having belief in themselves, having aspirations and aiming for excellence in whatever they do,” she said. 

Ms Peeler is a fierce advocate for the Worowa system which encourages holistic learning which extends far beyond the class-based study.

“It’s about academic learning, it’s about social and emotional wellbeing, and it’s about culture, so we bring those three things together to form a whole,” she said.

Lois Peeler says her school students are often intrigued by her glamorous past as a model and singer.Supplied

Ever the activist, Ms Peeler says she can’t help but compare the years-long campaign preceding the 1967 referendum with the current climate around constitutional recognition.

“It’s a similar movement the way it’s not going to happen overnight – it’s going to be a long process,” she said.

“We want to make sure it’s the right changes and there’s a lot of consultation going on about that,” she said.

The Worowa education model is now set to be replicated across Australia and Ms Peeler says she couldn’t be more proud of former and current students.

“They’re also holding on to their Aboriginality, which is very important, so you know they’re proud of who they are – they’re bringing about change in the community in both the Aboriginal community and the broader community,” she said.

1967 referendum

WikiLeaks’ Assange claims victory after Sweden drops rape probe

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has given a clenched fist salute from Ecuador’s London embassy after Swedish prosecutors dropped a seven-year rape allegation against him, but he insisted the “proper war” over his future was just beginning.

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Assange stepped into the daylight on the balcony of Ecuador’s embassy in the UK, where he has been holed up since 2012, to celebrate, but said the road was “far from over”.

The 45-year-old Australian’s accuser was angered by the decision and Assange declined to say whether he would leave the embassy.

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British police could arrest him immediately for breaching earlier bail conditions if he left the building, while US authorities have warned they regard WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service”.

“Today is an important victory,” Assange, dressed in a black shirt and jacket, told reporters and a small band of supporters crowded around the tiny balcony.

“But it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge. In prison, under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight.

“That is not something that I can forgive. It is not something that I can forget.”

pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/dDvB1Vekhg

— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) May 19, 2017Uncertain future

Earlier in Stockholm, Marianne Ny, Sweden’s director of public prosecutions, said the rape investigation had been dropped because there was “no reason to believe that the decision to surrender him to Sweden can be executed in the foreseeable future”.

“It is no longer proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence,” she said.

Assange jumped British bail by entering the embassy and claiming asylum, saying he feared he would eventually be extradited to the United States.

US justice authorities have never confirmed that they have Assange under investigation or are seeking his extradition.

But US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month that “we will seek to put some people in jail”, when asked if arresting Assange was a “priority” for Washington.

US prosecutors have been drafting a memo that looks at charges against Assange and WikiLeaks members that possibly include conspiracy, theft of government property and violations of the Espionage Act, according to The Washington Post.

Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.

— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) May 19, 2017

US President Donald Trump’s administration has put heat on WikiLeaks after it embarrassed the Central Intelligence Agency in March by releasing files and computer code from the spy agency’s top-secret hacking operations.

“The road is far from over. The war, the proper war is just commencing,” Assange said, noting his lawyers were in touch with British authorities and hoped to begin a dialogue about the “best way forward”.

Ecuador also urged Britain on Friday to let Assange leave.

“Ecuador will now be intensifying  its diplomatic efforts with the UK so that Julian Assange can gain safe passage in order to enjoy his asylum in Ecuador,” the country’s foreign minister Guillaume Long wrote in a statement.

Watch: Today is an important victory for me – Assange

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And the former computer hacker said that despite the “extremely threatening remarks” emanating from Washington, he was “always ready to engage with the Department of Justice”.

The department said Friday it had no comment on Assange.

Asked if London would now support a request to extradite Assange to the United States, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We look at extradition requests on a case-by-case basis.”

Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelsson, said his client plans to move to Ecuador because “it’s the only nation where he is safe”.

Metropolitan Police confirm Julian #Assange will be arrested for “much less serious offence” if he leaves Ecuadorian Embassy @SBSNews pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/LPsd8NXEpn

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 19, 2017Decision a ‘scandal’

In Sweden, Assange’s accuser was left stunned by the prosecutors’ decision.

“It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts,” her lawyer, Elisabeth Fritz, told AFP in an email.

“My client is shocked and no decision to (end the case) can make her change (her mind) that Assange exposed her to rape,” she said.

The accusation against Assange dates from August 2010 when the alleged victim, who says she met him at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm a few days earlier, filed a complaint. 

She accused him of having sex with her – as she slept – without using a condom despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex. 

Assange always denied the allegations, which he feared would lead to him being extradited to face trial over the leak of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010, which brought WikiLeaks to prominence.

Dateline: Assange’s legal limbo

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Rouhani re-elected as Iran’s president in convincing victory

Iranian state television congratulated President Hassan Rouhani on winning re-election on Saturday, effectively confirming his victory over hardline challenger Ebrahim Raisi.

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With almost all votes counted from the previous day’s election, Rouhani had an insurmountable lead with 22.8 million votes compared to 15.5 million for Raisi. 

A huge turnout on Friday – estimated at more than 40 million out of 56 million registered voters – led to the vote being extended by several hours to deal with long queues. 

“I congratulate the great victory of the Iranian nation in creating a huge and memorable epic in the continuation of the path of ‘wisdom and hope’,” tweeted Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, referring to the government’s slogan.

Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric who spearheaded a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, has framed the election as a choice between greater civil liberties and “extremism”. 

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Hardline cleric Raisi, 56, had positioned himself as a defender of the poor and called for a much tougher line with the West.

But his revolutionary rhetoric and efforts to win over working class voters with promises of increased handouts appear to have gained limited traction. 

“Rouhani’s vote, particularly in rural areas, shows that Iranian people no longer believe in economic populism and radical change,” said Ali Vaez, Iran analyst for the International Crisis Group, a think tank. 

“They have the maturity to understand that the solution to their country’s predicaments are in competent management of the economy and moderation in international relations,” Vaez told AFP.

Rouhani’s central first-term achievement was a deal with six powers led by the United States that eased crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.

He gained a reprieve this week when Washington agreed to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions, keeping the deal on track for now.

But the election comes at a tense moment in relations with the United States, with President Donald Trump still threatening to abandon the accord and visiting Iran’s bitter regional rival Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Watch: Iranians react to presidential election

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‘Voting to keep that’

Although Rouhani has been deeply entrenched in Iran’s security establishment since the early days of the revolution, he has emerged as the standard-bearer for reformists after their movement was decimated in the wake of mass protests in 2009. 

“We’ve entered this election to tell those practising violence and extremism that your era is over,” he said during the campaign.

At recent rallies, his supporters chanted the names of reformist leaders under house arrest since 2011 for their part in mass protests two years earlier. 

International affairs researcher Foad Izadi, of Tehran University, said Rouhani may now have the leverage to push for more freedoms, despite opposition from the conservative-dominated judiciary and security services. 

“A number of years have passed (since the 2009 protests) and the country is demonstrating a high level of stability – this gives the system confidence, which means more room for change,” Izadi said.

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But the economy remains the number one challenge. 

Although Rouhani brought inflation down from around 40 per cent when he took office in 2013, prices are still rising at nine per cent a year.

Oil sales have rebounded since the nuclear deal took effect in January last year, but growth in the rest of the economy has been limited, leaving unemployment at 12.5 per cent overall, and at almost 30 per cent among young people.

“We are still not pleased with the situation, but in the four years of Rouhani there has been a relative improvement and I’m voting to keep that,” said Alireza Nikpour, a 40-year-old photographer in Tehran, as he queued to cast his ballot on Friday.

Last month, the Guardian Council excluded all but six candidates for the election but still left a stark choice between moderate-reformists and hardliners. 

Two dropped out to back Raisi and Rouhani, respectively, while the remaining candidates – reformist Mostafa Hashemitaba and conservative Mostafa Mirsalim – were headed for only a marginal percentage of the votes.

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IS-claimed suicide bombings kill 35 in Iraq

The bombings, which hit Iraq the previous night, came as Iraqi forces battle IS in Mosul in a massive operation launched more than seven months ago to retake the country’s second city from the jihadists.

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In Baghdad, suicide car bombers attacked in the area of a checkpoint in the city’s southern Abu Dsheer area, killing 24 people and wounding 20, Brigadier General Saad Maan told AFP.

Security forces were able to kill one of the attackers, but the second blew up his car bomb, Maan said.

IS issued a statement claiming the attack but gave a different account of how it unfolded, saying that one militant clashed with security forces using a light weapon before detonating an explosive belt, after which a second blew up a car bomb.

And in south Iraq, a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-rigged vehicle at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city of Basra, killing 11 people and wounding 30, according to Riyadh Abdulamir, the head of Basra province health department.

Another militant who left a second explosives-rigged vehicle was killed by security forces, the Basra Operations Command said.

IS also claimed the Basra attack, but said that both bombs were successfully detonated.

The jihadist group overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since recaptured much of the territory they lost to the jihadists.

After recapturing the cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraqi forces launched an operation to retake Mosul – at the time the largest population centre still in IS hands – last October.

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