Reinvigorated Government renews High Court referral threat to Labor, crossbench MPs

Updated December 17, 2017 20:27:47

Reinvigorated by its win in the Bennelong by-election, the Turnbull Government has refreshed its threat to refer Labor and crossbench MPs to the High Court over their citizenship.

Key points:

  • John Alexander’s win gives the Coalition back its 76-vote majority in the lower house
  • The Federal Government argues some MPs should refer themselves to the High Court over their citizenship
  • The Opposition unsuccessfully tried to refer another eight MPs to the High Court

John Alexander’s win in the crucial vote has given the Coalition back its 76-vote majority in the Lower House, and the numbers to act unilaterally in forcing more High Court challenges.

The Federal Government argues that Queensland Labor MP Susan Lamb, WA’s Josh Wilson and Tasmanian Justine Keay, along with Nick Xenophon Team MP Rebekha Sharkie from South Australia should throw themselves at the mercy of the highest legal authority in the land.

All were still British citizens at the time nominations closed before last year’s federal election.

“As the Government has always stated, our first preference is for Bill Shorten to do the right thing and refer his own members of Parliament to the High Court,” Leader of the House Christopher Pyne told the ABC.

“In the absence of that, we will refer any MP with a serious case to answer.”

Labor has already referred citizenship questions about Lower House MP David Feeney and ACT senator Katy Gallagher.

The Opposition unsuccessfully tried to refer another eight MPs to the High Court, including Labor and Coalition members, in the last sitting week of Parliament.

However, the Government used its numbers to block the vote.

The four members targeted by the Coalition all say they took “all reasonable steps” to renounce their British citizenship ahead of the last election.

Despite attempts to resolve the citizenship fiasco by the end of the parliamentary year, the stand-off between the major parties continues to inflame tensions.

Labor maintains there are Coalition members who have failed to adequately prove they were not dual citizens.

Among them are Sydney-based MP Jason Falinski and Victorian member Julia Banks.

Topics: constitution, government-and-politics, federal-government, canberra-2600

First posted December 17, 2017 20:13:35

RSPCA ACT inspector awarded inaugural Animal Defenders Office’s animal protection award

Former RSPCA ACT inspector Catherine Croatto has been awarded the inaugural Animal Defenders Office’s animal protection award for 2017.

The award acknowledges a significant contribution by a member of the community to animal protection in the ACT.

The office’s executive director, Tara Ward, said Ms Croatto had turned around the RSPCA ACT’s inspectorate during her time as a senior inspector. 

“It went from having the odd hearing every few years, to getting scores of animal cruelty and neglect prosecutions to court each year,” Ms Ward said.

“This is no insignificant achievement, each case would involve months and months of painstaking investigation and hard work, and Catherine would often be subjected to all manner of abuse by the people being investigated.”

Ms Croatto, who was an officer with NSW Police before joining the RSPCA, was presented with the award on Thursday night.

She had the highest number of animals brought into the shelter via the inspectorate in the organisation’s history. She also had the highest prosecution rate of animal abusers ever achieved during her time.

“I spent many years in the NSW Police where besides dealing with humans I attended many jobs in relation to animal cruelty,” Ms Croatto said.

“Far too often these jobs resulted in me having to destroy many animals to relieve them of their suffering; too many of them were beyond veterinary help.”

According to annual reports, about 40 animals were brought in the year before Ms Croatto started. When she started in 2014 it rose to about 1000 animals a year.

Her job involved seizing neglected animals, interviewing those responsible, prosecuting the serious cases and providing education.

“The connection or relationship between animals and their owners can be extremely strong, so dealing with incidences of unintentional neglect can be very, very difficult,” she said.

“Convincing people that the animal would be better off with another family can be challenging.”

Ms Ward thanked Ms Croatto’s work and said the ACT was a better place for all creatures, great and small.

Christmas in Glebe Park festival draws crowd on second weekend

With the mercury rising into the 30s on Saturday, Canberra was far from the winter wonderland and the cold temperatures associated with Christmas.

However, the hot weather didn’t stop a large crowd of people from gathering in Civic on Saturday for the Christmas in Glebe Park festival.

Now in its second weekend, the festival is running every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the lead up to Christmas, with this weekend’s festivities focusing on free screenings of Christmas movies.

It’s the first year the event has taken place in Canberra, replacing the large Christmas tree and multitude of lights seen in City Walk.

Saturday’s festivities saw live music performances, Santa photos, the chance to decorate real Christmas trees as well as many Christmas lights.

An open-air cinema was also screening the modern Christmas movie classic Elf, with Home Alone to be screened on the Sunday.

Among those attending the Christmas markets were Calwell residents Courtney and Adam Bryant, along with their two children Amelie and Xavier.

Mrs Bryant said the family was looking to do something around Christmas time this year.

“The kids wanted to do something for Christmas, and we were going to come here to see all the Christmas trees and the lights as well,” she said.

A week out from Christmas, the family said they had mostly had things sorted for December 25, with a family Christmas planned.

As well as Christmas festivities at the markets, goat yoga will also feature as part of the event on Sunday at 2pm.

The event’s organiser Ashleigh Gleeson said the move to Glebe Park has paid off, with large crowds coming through the gates each weekend.

“It was better than we could have hoped,” she said.

“Christmas is so busy, so it’s nice to see families set up picnics, with no rush, no panic, people could take their time and enjoy the space.”

The Christmas in Glebe Park festival continues on Sunday.

A day to remember as Australia pounds England in Perth, as it happened

Updated December 16, 2017 21:04:25

England’s Ashes hopes may have disintegrated on day three in Perth, as Steve Smith and Mitch Marsh put on a batting masterclass.

Relive the action as it happened in our live blog.

Topics: sport, cricket, ashes, perth-6000, wa, sydney-2000, nsw, melbourne-3000, vic, brisbane-4000, qld, adelaide-5000, sa, canberra-2600, act, hobart-7000, tas, darwin-0800, nt, australia

First posted December 16, 2017 12:50:33

Pro-Palestinian protesters march to US Embassy

A group of protesters marched to the US Embassy protesting Donald Trump’s move to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The interfaith protesters say they are disappointed the US embassy did not accept their letter, instead instructing them to post it. 

About 100 protesters marched from Yarralumla Mosque to the US Embassy gates, chanting pro Palestine slogans and holding signs decrying President Trump.

Representatives from Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds spoke in condemnation of the decision. 

Rally organiser Emad Soliman said the decision put an end to decades of agreement about Jerusalem’s status.

He said President Trump’s declaration was a direct breach of international conventions and all previous United Nations resolutions.

Mr Soliman said they appreciated the Australian government reaffirmed its stance to not acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“We believe that Jerusalem is extremely important for all Muslims, Christians and Jewish alike,” he said

“However, we strongly urge the Australian government to take a more proactive and unbiased diplomatic role to find a peaceful resolution to the ongoing Israeli – Palestinian conflict would have a direct impact on the global peace and stability.”

Said Hajj Hasan Alzein a member of Canberra’s Muslim community said President’s Trump statement did not change the identity of Jerusalem, “neither does it erase the history and culture of Palestinian Jerusalemites, both Muslim and Christians alike”.

‘Is he dead? I hope he’s dead’: Killer jailed for stabbing neighbour over dispute

Posted December 15, 2017 17:47:34

A Canberra man who stabbed his neighbour to death before referring to him as a maggot while speaking to police has been sentenced to 21 years in jail by the ACT Supreme Court.

Ambulance officers discovered the grim scene inside the home of Jason Hollingshed at the Stuart Flats in Griffith on February 29 last year.

Mr Hollingshed was dead in a pool of blood, with multiple stab wounds, including in his neck.

Scott Jamie Cole, 41, admitted to police at the scene that he was responsible for the attack, repeatedly asking if he was dead.

Cole: I’m Scott Cole. Is he dead?

Officer: Is who dead?

Cole: The maggot.

Officer: What unit?

Cole: Unit nine. I f***ing stabbed him. I hope he is dead.

Cole and Mr Hollingshed had been friends and neighbours until a falling out over a lewd comment about Cole’s girlfriend and Justice John Burns noted the long-running animosity between the pair.

That tension boiled over on the day of the killing when Mr Hollingshed accused Cole of breaking his screen door.

There was a fight inside Mr Hollingshed’s unit, before Cole retrieved a large knife from his own kitchen and stabbed his former friend repeatedly.

“The stabbing blows were delivered with force,” Justice Burns said.

“The deceased fell to the ground in front of the kitchen and you stabbed him in the neck while he was on the ground.”

The judge said the knife penetrated through to the floor, damaging a rug and tiles beneath Mr Hollingshed.

He also noted Cole had shown no remorse.

“While you made full admissions to a number of police officers at the scene … these admissions can be characterised as justifying your actions and denigrating the deceased,” he said.

Justice Burns said Cole was a danger to the community and had poor prospects of rehabilitation.

He is set a non-parole period of 17 years, which expires in 2033.

Topics: murder-and-manslaughter, canberra-2600, act, australia

Queanbeyan’s Elf on a Shelf is baaaa-ck

Queanbeyan’s Elf on a Shelf is popping up again at landmarks all over the city.

The elf made his (?), her (?) debut at Christmas, 2016 thanks to the ingenuity and pride in her city of Queanbeyan’s first lady, Nichole Overall, wife of mayor Tim Overall.

Nichole this week debuted Elf on a Shelf 2.0 on her Facebook page, also unleashing the punmeisters.

​”God elf us,” reckoned one . “Nichole Overall You brought it all on your elf!,” punned another.

Queanbeyan’s Elf on a Shelf loves to showcase the city in all its glory and last year popped up everywhere from Morty the giant snail statue to the bar of the Royal Hotel.

“”Be prepared for all NEW adventures,” Nichole warned.

Accused ANU baseball bat attacker likens psychotic episode to Star Wars

Posted December 14, 2017 19:08:16

A man who attacked Australian National University (ANU) students with a baseball bat had violent fantasies and a sense of a higher dark purpose which he likened to the Star Wars character Luke Skywalker, a Canberra court has heard.

Alex Ophel, 18, is facing four attempted murder charges and several charges of assault, after he attacked members of a class shortly after he entered the room on August 25.

Allegations put to the court today also suggest he had searched online whether hitting someone in the head with a baseball bat could kill, ISIS beheadings and ACT murder laws.

He asked for bail in the ACT Magistrates Court so he could be placed in a dedicated mental health facility instead of jail.

Mr Ophel’s father told the court his son had experienced a first-time psychotic episode that had caught everyone by surprise.

Psychiatrist Bree Wyeth said Mr Ophel had eventually responded to medication but needed other therapies that were not so readily available in prison.

She said to get the best outcome to prevent future violence, the mental health facility was a much better option.

“I think he’s quite vulnerable in custody,” Ms Wyeth said.

Prosecutor Sarah Gul quizzed Dr Wyeth about reports on Mr Ophel.

These suggested he had planned the incident with the aim of killing everyone there, that he had fantasies about raping women, and that he thought he had a higher purpose to harm others.

Dr Wyeth said the symptoms were linked to his initial state before treatment.

“With effective treatment I am quite confident it won’t come back,” she said.

But Ms Gul raised concerns about security levels at the mental health facility and urged the court not to grant bail, saying no-one could be confident the community would be safe.

“This was in the context of a quiet young man and no-one saw it coming,” Ms Gul said.

Magistrate Margaret Hunter will deliver her decision on bail next week.

Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, crime, canberra-2600, act, australia

The very soul of Christmas: crowds gather for 73rd Carols by Candlelight in Canberra

Canberra’s big traditional carols by candlelight started in 1945, outside Parliament House, the crowd celebrating the first peacetime Christmas in six years, holding aloft “candles, hurricane lamps and kerosene-burning lamps”.

Seventy-two years later and a few things have changed – the crowd gets safety-conscious, battery-operated candles these days – but the spirit of Christmas is just as strong.

The 73rd annual Carols by Candlelight was celebrated on Wednesday night, with crowds gathering in Commonwealth Park to hear the voices of the Woden Valley Youth Choir and the music of the Canberra City Band. Featured performers were Anthony Simeonovic and Tina Robinson.

The choir’s administrator Brenda Copley said the carols moved to Stage 88 in Commonwealth Park in 1988.

She said the carols were such an enduring part of Canberra life for more than 70 years because it was about capturing the real spirit of Christmas.

“It’s a family-friendly event and it’s just very relaxed and, also, it’s for charity and people give quite generously,” she said.

“It’s a free event and 100 per cent of proceeds from the sale of the candles and carol sheets go to the chosen charity.”

That charity this year is Parkinson’s ACT. The nominated charity at the 1945 concert was the Aid-for-Britain Appeal. The event back then was coordinated by the YMCA and YWCA.

There was a link between those post-war carols in Canberra in 1945 and the one on Wednesday night. A soloist at the concert in 1945 was Edward Gumley. His daughter Barbara went on to marry Don Whitbread and together the couple in 1969 founded the Woden Valley Youth Choir, which has anchored the carols for many years.

And those intending to go to the 1945 carols in Canberra were urged to “bring a candle, but these must not be lighted until the torch-bearers light the flares on the [War] Memorial”, a reminder of a community still reeling from World War Two.

There is still more opportunity to take part in carols by candlelight this weekend.

Carols by candlelight will be at Lanyon Homestead on Tharwa Drive on Saturday, December 16 from 5pm to 9pm.

Amber Nichols and Katie de Veau will lead Carols in Town Park in Tuggeranong on Sunday, December 17, with festivities starting at 4.30pm. They will be supported by the Salvation Army’s National Capital Band, the Tuggeranong Salvation Army Timbrels, a local choir and there will be a special appearance from Santa.

Stories told through historic wedding dresses

Posted December 13, 2017 15:20:53

A designer gown and a bespoke suit or thongs and sarongs at the beach? Deciding what to wear has always been a crucial part of a couple’s wedding plans.

When Veronica Wensing and Krishna Sadhana tied the knot in 2013 the colour purple was a key feature.

Ms Wensing chose a long floral dress from a factory outlet; Ms Sadhana wore a purple shirt and tie with a My Little Pony rainbow motif.

Like a dozen other Canberra same-sex couples, they leapt at the chance to wed under the ACT’s marriage equality bill, but the High Court overturned the legislation just days after their wedding.

“To them it was a really affirming ceremony where they were not only being accepted by their family and friends, but also by the community at large,” said Rowan Henderson from the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG).

“Hopefully now that marriage equality has gone ahead [under federal law] there will be more same-sex weddings happening in Canberra.”

While wedding dresses are a useful way to chart changing fashions, they also mark a time in history.

And they’re imbued with the personal stories of those who wore them on one of the most special days of their lives.

The CMAG collection spans nearly a century.

“These items … are important for the CMAG collection as they document the rituals of birth, marriage and death that define the passage of our lives,” Ms Henderson said.

“We can explore the changes over time in the way we celebrate these rituals.”

A look at a multicultural wedding in 1980

When academic Rosamund Dalziell married her husband Ian in 1980, she wore a Thai silk ensemble she had spotted in a Canberra store three weeks before her engagement.

Ms Dalziell worked at AIDAB, now known as AusAID, and the couple had many friends from overseas.

Their church wedding in Ainslie and reception at the ANU’s Burgmann College was a multicultural celebration.

“It was a bit more of a laid-back, personally organised affair … than the very traditional conservative kind of wedding,” Ms Henderson said.

“[The dress] was an off-the-rack, but looking at it … it was probably destined for a wedding because of the colour.”

What did a traditional 1915 bridal gown look like?

Olive Booth was 21 when she married Dr Sydney Evan Jones in Sydney in 1915.

Her delicately patterned wedding ensemble comprised a skirt, bodice, sash, veil, two-metre train and kid leather shoes.

Tragically, just 18 months after the wedding Olive died after giving birth to her daughter.

“She was married for not even 18 months and she was a mum for 10 days,” Ms Henderson said.

“It just speaks to me as such a tragedy of a life unlived, that potential that was never fulfilled.”

Though Jones remarried twice, he chose to be buried with his first wife.

Her wedding attire was cared for by their daughter Olive Hinchcliffe until her death in 1999, when it was donated to CMAG by a family friend.

Topics: history, library-museum-and-gallery, fashion, marriage, canberra-2600