Daily Archives: March 24, 2016

Arthur Sinodinos under renewed pressure over Liberal donations scandal


Under pressure cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos has publicly lashed out at the NSW Electoral Commission over a political donations scandal, branding as “flawed” its report into the illegal funnelling of donations to the state Liberal Party.

As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came under pressure to stand down his cabinet secretary, Senator Sinodinos said his lawyers had demanded it “immediately retract all references to me in the publication”.

It was an escalation of the dispute, following the damning finding by the NSW Electoral Commission against the NSW party at a time when Senator Sinodinos was its finance director.

The scandal pitted Premier Mike Baird against his own party office on Thursday, after he called on it to “cop it on the chin” and accede to the commission’s demand for it to disclose who donated $693,000 via the controversial Free Enterprise Foundation before the 2011 state election.

Mr Baird said he had spoken to NSW Liberal state director Chris Stone and told him the Liberal Party “should comply”.

“It’s very clear that it looks like we have done the wrong thing, so we have to cop it on the chin, and we need to get on with it,” he said.

Later, Mr Stone said he had written to the electoral commission “seeking their assistance in resolving any areas of uncertainty about the legal status of donors in the 2010/2011 period so as to comply with our obligations.”

However, it remains unclear if the party will agree to disclose the names of the donors as the commission has demanded.

Mr Stone said the NSW party had been waiting for the Independent Commission Against Corruption to deliver its findings in Operation Spicer during which the donations issue came to light.

The call for Senator Sinodinos to stand aside came after the NSW Liberal party was slammed by the state Electoral Commission for “concealing” the identities of major donors before the 2011 state poll, including via the secretive Free Enterprise Foundation.

The commission said that, based on evidence given to ICAC during Operation Spicer in 2014, the federally registered foundation was used by senior NSW Liberal party officials to “channel and disguise donations by major political donors some of whom were prohibited donors”.

The commission said it had relied on evidence given to ICAC by senior party officials including about the “involvement” of members of the then NSW Liberal finance committee, which included Senator Sinodinos.

Senator Sinodinos was finance director and treasurer of the NSW Liberals at the time but has previously denied any knowledge of the use of the Free Enterprise Foundation to circumvent state donations laws to funnel property developer and other illegal donations into the campaign.

The NSW Liberals refusal to formally disclose the names of the donors led the commission to withhold $4.4 million in campaign and administrative funding claimed by the NSW Liberals from the 2015 state election. It has also frozen future public funding to the division until it complies.

The commission is unable to prosecute the party for not filing a “requisite declaration” containing the donor details due to a three-year statute of limitations on the offence, which occurred in 2011.

Acting shadow attorney-general Brendan O’Connor called on Senator Sinodinos to stand aside following the commission’s “extraordinary finding”.

Mr O’Connor said “it beggars belief that he has no role in this at all. It doesn’t pass the pub test that somehow all of this happened and he’s oblivious to all of it”.

But a spokesman for Mr Turnbull – who recently promoted Senator Sinodinos to cabinet secretary after former prime minister Tony Abbott stood him aside amid a separate ICAC investigation in 2014 – declined to comment.

Mr Sinodinos said he had “no role in the NSW Division’s decision to decline to update information disclosed in [its donations declaration], as was requested by the Commission”.


Debris ‘almost certainly’ from flight MH370


Two pieces of debris found in Mozambique are ‘almost certainly’ from missing flight MH370, the federal government has confirmed.

One of the pieces, stamped with ‘676EB’, was found in December but initially dismissed as rubbish and only reported to authorities earlier this month, prompted by media reports of the other piece, which has the words ‘NO STEP’ on it.

The pieces arrived in Canberra for testing four days ago and on Thursday, Transport Minister Darren Chester said investigators had concluded they were consistent with panels from a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft.

Mr Chester said investigators remained hopeful the aircraft would be found.’The analysis has concluded the debris is almost certainly from MH370,’ Mr Chester said.

He said finding the objects on the east coast of Africa was consistent with modelling of debris drifting from the search area in the southern Indian Ocean.

Authorities remain certain they area searching in the right area for the plane which disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board, including six Australians.

So far only a piece of wing, known as a flaperon, discovered in July on the island of Reunion, has been confirmed as being from the missing jetliner.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau commissioner Martin Dolan told AAP earlier this month pieces could take that long to make it across the sea because the rate of drift and, to some extent, the direction depended on how much of the object was sticking up above the waves.

An ATSB spokesman confirmed the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China remain of the view the search area will not be expanded beyond the current 120,000sq km zone in the absence of credible new information.

Just over 20 per cent or 25,000sq km of the underwater search area is yet to be combed, with completion estimated as mid-year.Mr Dolan also recently told AAP the area would not be re-scoured as he had confidence in the quality of the work, which was being done by the world’s best sonar experts.

Another object found on the shores of Reunion earlier this month by the same member of a beach clean-up crew who found the flaperon was last week deemed unlikely as being from MH370.

Mr Dolan also flagged on March 10 the possibility of debris being found in South Africa, 12 days before the Malaysian transport minister announced an object had been discovered near the town of Mossell Bay.

The minister said it could be from an inlet cowling of an aircraft engine.A spokeswoman for the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre, which is organising the search off the West Australian coast, said the authenticity of photos in media about the South African find, showing an object with part of a Rolls Royce logo, could not be confirmed.


Australia thrash Tajikistan 7-0

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24:  Mile Jedinak of Australia celebrates with team mates after scoring a goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification match between the Australia Socceroos and Tajikistan at the Adelaide Oval on March 24, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 24: Mile Jedinak of Australia celebrates with team mates after scoring a goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification match between the Australia Socceroos and Tajikistan at the Adelaide Oval on March 24, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A dominant Australian Socceroos have crushed Tajikistan 7-0 in a one-sided FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifier at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night.

In Australia’s first game in Adelaide in five years, the home fans were treated to an attacking masterclass by Australia which the overawed Tajiks had no answer to.

Massimo Luongo and Mile Jedinak scored inside the first 12 minutes to have the Socceroos 2-0 at the break before they ran riot in the second half.

It was carnage for the visitors as Mark Milligan scored another penalty early in the second half before Nathan Burns (two) and substitute Tom Rogic scored a brace within five minutes of coming off the bench.

And it could have been an even bigger win for the hosts, who hit the woodwork an astonishing four times in the second half.

Debutant Apostolos Giannou was one of the Socceroos’ best, finishing with assists for four of the goals and unlucky not to get one himself with an effort that hit the post in the second half.

Playmaker Aaron Mooy continued his incredible run of form with another brilliant display in the middle of the park while local boy Ryan McGowan and Burns were also strong.

But the green and gold didn’t have a bad player as they rarely got out of first gear, now needing only a point against Jordan on Tuesday to confirm their spot in the next stage of qualifying.

New boy Giannou was handed a debut up front and the 26-year-old made an immediate impact, setting up the opening goal inside two minutes.

Burns played the ball into Giannou at the top of the box, with the striker teeing up Luongo who arrowed a powerful shot into the bottom corner.

Soon after it was 2-0 and Giannou was again involved, racing onto a pinpoint through-ball by Jedinak only to be brought down in the box by keeper Alisher Tuychiev.

An ice-cool Jedinak had no trouble sweeping home from the spot for the skipper’s 12th international goal.

The Socceroos were playing some sublime attacking football. The passing was slick, the touches were assured and the movement off the ball was first-class.

It was the type of play Postecoglou has been craving with his side enjoying the acres of space and time on the ball afforded to them by the out-classed visitors.

Chance after chance went begging and a one-sided first half with Mat Leckie, Burns, Giannou and Jedinak all squandering excellent chances to add to the lead.

Milligan replaced Jedinak at the break and he had his name on the scoresheet within 12 minutes of the resumption.

Giannou was again in the thick of it, hauled down in the box by Ergashev Davronjon for another penalty, which Milligan dispatched with aplomb.

Burns added a fourth 10 minutes later with a simple tap-in but Mooy deserved all the credit.

The exceptional Melbourne City playmaker mesmerised the Tajikistan defence, showing great strength and skill to hold off two defenders before picking out Burns with a delightful cross.

Rogic came off the bench and made an immediate impact, scoring twice in the space of two minutes.

First he was credited with a goal after volleying home Mooy’s free-kick, although replays suggested it might not have crossed the line before Giannou slammed it in.

Before the crowd could catch their breath they were celebrating again as Rogic shimmied past one defender and curled in a classy effort with the outside of his left foot.

Burns then completed the rout three minutes from time with a simple header from McGowan’s cross.

Jordan is now the final hurdle for the Socceroos to overcome to win the group when the two sides meet in Sydney on Tuesday.

Caltex Socceroos 7 (Luongo 2’, Jedinak 12’, Milligan 57’, Burns 67’, 87’, Rogic 70’, 72’)

Tajikistan 0

Crowd: 35,439 @ Adelaide Oval