Paul Keating accuses government of using Afghanistan report to bury Treasury backing for superannuation | Superannuation

Paul Keating has accused the government of using the release of the bombshell report on Australian soldiers’ alleged murders in Afghanistan to hide Treasury report findings that he said backed increasing superannuation payments.

The former prime minister also dismissed suggestions that scheduled rises to the minimum contribution employers have to make to employees’ super accounts would slow a recovery from the pandemic.

Speaking to the ABC’s 7.30 program, Keating read from the Treasury’s retirement income review that was released on Friday, a day before the release of Maj Gen Justice Paul Brereton’s devastating report into the conduct of a small group within the elite Special Air Service regiment.

Keating said: “The government released the report on the day they released the Afghan revelations. The point was to not have people focus on the central finding.”

Days earlier, the government released selected excerpts from the Treasury report in a move interpreted as laying the groundwork to scrap the planned increases in the superannuation guarantee.

The Australian Taxation Office will raise the superannuation guarantee from 9.5% to 10% in July 2021. Five further 0.5% increases are scheduled each year until the rate goes up to 12% in July 2025.

Keating said the rise from 9.5% to 10% was equal to about $8 a week for a person on an average wage.

“You are talking about small amounts,” he said. “You think that $8 is going to upset the employment equation of Australia. 0.5% is worth $8 a week … two coffees!”

Keating, a champion since the 1990s of raising the minimum amount employers had to pay employees, rubbished concerns that the scheduled rises in the superannuation guarantee would impact on wages growth or slow recovery from the pandemic.

In September Keating attacked Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe, who had suggested raising superannuation would hit wages growth.

Weeks earlier he slammed “little bitchy Liberals” for trying to undermine his superannuation scheme.

Keating said at the time that wages growth had been stagnant since 2012, a point he repeated on on the ABC late on Monday.

Reading from parts of the Treasury document, Keating said: “[The government] wanted the report to say super was in trouble.”

Running his finger along lines of the report, Keating read that Treasury had found superannuation was effective and its costs were sustainable.

“The second line says, ‘Without compulsory superannuation, middle income earners would not save enough for retirement.’

“Here is the report. There it is. Point one, in other words, the report, the review has confirmed the universality of superannuation.”

Keating said the rise in the superannuation guarantee to 12% would be paid for by employers, and people had earned the rise because productivity had gone up.

He said if the superannuation scheme didn’t exist and people were instead left to manage their own investments, people would stop saving for their retirements.

“That’s what the [Treasury] report says. Middle income earners would not save enough for retirement. This is not just Australians, this is true around the world. Unless you’re compulsorily required to do it, they don’t do it.”

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LIVE UPDATES: Mitt Romney accuses Trump of trying to ‘subvert’ will of the people

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted late Thursday that President Trump has resorted to “overt” pressure on state and local officials to “subvert” the will of the people, and “overturn the election.”

“It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President,” wrote Romney, a former GOP presidential nominee who was the only Senate Republican who voted to convict Trump in February after the U.S. House impeached him in December 2019.

Romney earlier had supported Trump’s legal efforts to have every vote counted and even acknowledged he had considered contesting the 2012 election he lost to former President Obama but said Trump hasn’t even proven a “plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy” in the election with President-elect Joe Biden. 

Meanwhile, in a Thursday news conference, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani alleged there was a “centralized” plan to carry out voter fraud around the country.

Follow below for updates on Trump’s election legal fight. Mobile users click here. 

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Union accuses Labor of keeping pay freeze for public servants ‘secret’ before NT election

A major public sector union has accused the Northern Territory Government of misleading voters and keeping plans to freeze public service wages secret ahead of the August election.

A four-year freeze on public service wage growth — with an annual $1,000 “retention bonus” for continuing employees — was unveiled as a key savings measure to tackle record debt forecast in the Budget released by Labor on Tuesday.

Chief Minister and Treasurer Michael Gunner said the “pause” on wages growth would save $424 million over four years and was in line with the budget repair roadmap released last year.

But union officials say the move goes further than the recommendation previously accepted by Labor “in principle”, and claim they were blindsided by the announcement.

Jarvis Ryan from the Australian Education Union accused the Government of engaging in “duplicity.”

“This harsh wage freeze was kept secret from the public and from the public servants who voted overwhelmingly to return Gunner to government,” he said.

Labor’s budget repair roadmap recommended a pay freeze for politicians and executive bureaucrats, and a new wage policy “based on a $1,000 per annum wage increase” instead of the annual 2 per cent increase currently in place.

The Government previously gave the recommendation “in principle” support and last week clashed with union officials who said they hadn’t been told the policy had been formally adopted.

Jarvis Ryan says the freeze is not fair and reasonable.(ABC News: Dane Hirst)

But in an email sent to public servants on Tuesday morning, Mr Gunner said “limit[ing] wages growth for four years to a $1,000 bonus provided each year” was necessary to avoid “massive” job cuts.

Mr Gunner told reporters he didn’t believe what the unions were previously told had changed.

“I think if you look at the numbers — this is what we need to be able to have budget discipline and save jobs, it all comes back to that,” he said.

A government spokesperson said Labor had been speaking with the unions about “a yearly payment of $1,000 in recent days” and would continue discussions into the next round of enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations.

The spokesperson said the Government was not prohibiting backpay, despite Labor also giving “in principle” support to such a proposal in the budget review.

The NT heads of the Australian Medical Association and Nursing and Midwifery joined the AEU NT in warning the wage freeze would make it harder to attract frontline workers.

“We’re not talking the huge 3 and 4 per cent pay rises even of the past.

“But to simply pretend we can freeze salaries for five years and that won’t have an impact on our capacity to recruit and retain public sector workers is laughable.”

Public service wages are the largest expenditure item in the NT budget. This financial year they are due to take up $3.2 billion, out of a total $6.8 billion spend.

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President Trump holds press briefing, accuses Democrats of rigging election

President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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UPDATED 6:59 AM PT – Friday, November 6, 2020

President Trump recently pushed back against the far-left while accusing Democrat election officials of rigging the 2020 presidential race.

During a White House press briefing Thursday evening, the President first highlighted his recent victories in battleground states despite interference from the mainstream media.

President Trump then slammed Democrat pollsters for “getting it wrong” and attempting to suppress the GOP vote.

“We had polls that were so ridiculous and everybody knew it at the time, there was no blue wave that they predicted,” he noted. “That was done for suppression reasons, but instead there was a big red wave and its been properly acknowledged actually by the media…they were, I think, very impressed.”

The President then doubled-down on his claims on potential mail-in voter fraud by stating Democrats destroyed the integrity of the election process. He also pledged that his administration will defend the presidential election from corruption and fraud, while noting this was unprecedented in American history.

“Our goal is to defend the integrity of the election, we’ll not allow the corruption to steal such an important election or any election for that matter,” he stated. “And we can’t allow silence…anybody to silence our voters and manufacture results.”

President Trump then challenged his opponent and other Democrat officials to uphold the integrity of the election process, while suggesting the Supreme Court may ultimately decide the presidency.

“We want openness and transparency: no secret count rooms, no mystery ballots, no illegal votes being cast after Election Day,” he explained. “…We want an honest election, we want an honest count and we want honest people working back there because its a very important job, so that’s the way this country is going to win.”

RELATED: WATCH: President Trump delivers remarks on 2020 election night


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Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate’s lawyer accuses Scott Morrison of humiliating his client over Cartier watches

The lawyer representing embattled Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate has accused the Prime Minister of humiliating his client in Parliament.

Last week, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an investigation into the purchase of four Cartier watches worth $20,000 as gifts to senior executives in 2018.

Mr Fletcher said he told the Australia Post chair to ask Ms Holgate to stand aside while the inquiry was underway.

In a statement, Ms Holgate’s lawyer Bryan Belling said his client would support a fair investigation but he believed there were no legal grounds for her to be stood down.

“It is now exactly seven days since Ms Holgate was the subject of a humiliating answer during Question Time,” he wrote.

“It is incumbent on the board to formally notify Ms Holgate that she has been stood down, and this notification must stipulate the grounds for this action … the board has failed to do so.

Mr Morrison told Parliament last week he was “appalled” and that the gifts were “disgraceful and not on”, after Ms Holgate told Senate Estimates about the purchase of the four luxury watches.

“We are the shareholders of Australia Post on behalf of the Australian people,” he said at the time.

“The chief executive … has been instructed to stand aside, if she doesn’t wish to do that, she can go.” 

He also said the Government was seeking legal advice about whether Ms Holgate should continue to receive her $27,000-a-week salary while the investigation takes place.

Ms Holgate said the watches were a gift on behalf of the chair and herself for a small group of people who worked to secure a multi-million-dollar deal.

Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate argues the Prime Minister humiliated her.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

Conflicting reports on communications

Mr Belling goes onto say he was “left with no choice but to publish this statement” after receiving no replies from the board and chairman of Australia Post despite writing to them in the past week.

A statement from an Australia Post spokesperson said Ms Holgate and the chair agreed over the phone that she would stand aside.

“Australia Post has been communicating frequently with Ms Holgate regarding the current situation and ensuring appropriate support has been provided,” they said in a statement.

“The chair stands by his previously made statement on Thursday 22 October that Ms Holgate will stand aside and this was agreed to by both parties in a telephone conversation.”

The offices of both the Communications Minister and the Prime Minister said this was a matter for Australia Post.

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UK coronavirus LIVE: Boris Johnson accuses Sadiq Khan of ‘bankrupting’ Transport for London as PM confirms Manchester WILL get £60m funding

Boris Johnson has confirmed that Greater Manchester will receive a £60 million funding support package to implement Tier 3 lockdown measures.

At PMQs the Prime Minister said the money would be distributed among the region’s boroughs, despite talks between ministers and local leaders breaking down on Tuesday.

It comes after Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham accused Mr Johnson of “playing poker” with people’s lives. The PM confirmed the region would enter Tier 3 lockdown from midnight on Thursday.

South Yorkshire will follow Greater Manchester into the toughest Covid alert level on Saturday, after it was confirmed that the area will be put under Tier 3 curbs.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson also used PMQs to take a swipe at Sadiq Khan, claiming that the London mayor had “effectively bankrupted” the capital’s transport network. It comes as Transport for London seeks a £4.9 billion Covid bail-out, with reports that ministers have threatened to take direct control of TfL if conditions are not met.

Follow our live updates here…

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England’s hospital death toll up by nearly 100 overnight

A further 94 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England.

This brings the total number of deaths reported in the country’s hospitals to 31,275, NHS England has said.

Patients were aged between 49 and 97. All but one, aged 71, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between October 14 and 20.

Manchester won’t be bullied – Labour

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner told the Commons: “For hundreds of years Mancunians have been told to know our place but we’ve never listened… we will not be told what our place is and we will not be bullied into taking it.”

She said Labour’s motion “will ensure a fair national deal for the country”, adding: “Next week and in the weeks ahead, it will be communities in other parts of the country that find themselves in Tier 3.

“If the Government is prepared to wilfully inflict so much harm on its own people in the middle of a pandemic in one part of the country, then they will do it to people elsewhere as well.

“We are staring down the barrel of a bleak winter because the Government have lost control of the virus. Infections are rising, hospital admissions are rising, deaths tragically are rising, the testing system is collapsed.”

Two to three weeks before success of top-tier restrictions is known, MPs told

It will take two to three weeks to establish whether tough top-tier coronavirus restrictions are working in a region, MPs have been told.

Dr Clare Gardiner, director general of the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), told two select committees that it would take this long for the data to come through showing if new measures are working.

Giving evidence to the Science and Technology and Health and Social Care committees earlier today, Dr Gardiner said that part of the lag came from the virus having a 10-day incubation period.

When asked how long it will take to see the benefit of the measures she added: “We would expect to see indications in the data coming through within two to three weeks of interventions being established.

“The incubation period for people who are infected now is about 10 days and that is why there’s a lag on some of the indications.”

Under the top-tier restrictions, households are banned from mixing indoors and all pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals.

But additional restrictions will be imposed based on discussions with local leaders, including those that could cover the hospitality, leisure, entertainment and personal care sectors.

Here’s more on the raging fallout over plans for TfL:

Sadiq Khan has accused Boris Johnson of lying to Parliament after the Prime Minister claimed that the London mayor had “bankrupted” the capital’s transport network.

The war of words erupted shortly after Mr Khan made a direct appeal to Downing Street to resolve the row over the £4.9 billion covid bail-out being sought by Transport for London.

In response to a question on potential conditions for the bailout during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said: “I can certainly confirm – as I said in my answer to the first question – is that the black hole in TfL’s finance, the bankruptcy of TfL, which was left by the way in robust financial health by the previous mayor, it certainly was … is entirely the fault of the current Labour Mayor of London.

Read more…

It’s not up to schools to feed kids during holidays – No10

A Number 10 spokesman said there were no changes to the Government’s free school meal policy despite pressure to extend them over the holidays.

The spokesman said: “While schools continue to play an integral role in the community, it’s not for them to regularly provide food during school holidays.”

More on those free school meal calls here:

Region could escape Tier 3 lockdown thanks to drop in infections – No10

Government talks with Tees Valley and Tyneside over introducing Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions have been paused, it is understood.

It follows signs that progress has been made in controlling Covid-19 in the area.

Discussions have also taken place about moving Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire into the highest category of restrictions.

Tier 3 restrictions ‘coming to a town near you’ – Labour

Labour’s Anglea Rayner said the debate was not just about Greater Manchester because “this is coming to a town near you”.

She told the Commons: “I absolutely hope the Prime Minister does the right thing because this is not just about Greater Manchester.

“This is coming to a town near you. In so many areas now the R number is increasing. So many areas are in Tier 2. So many areas are going to go into Tier 3.

“So this is a marker to ensure that our economy survives through these problems.

“I remember the promises the Prime Minister made, not just in this crisis but before it. He offered ‘levelling up’ for communities like mine.

“But he’s not levelling us up. He’s letting us down. Under Thatcher we were consigned to managed decline. Now it feels like mismanaged decline.”

Labour slams ‘insulting’ Greater Manchester support package

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has called the Government’s financial support package for Greater Manchester “an insult”.

She also told the Commons her aunt died last week from Covid-19 at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

During a Commons debate on financial support for areas under tighter Covid-19 restrictions, she said: “So I speak today not just as a member of this House, nor as a Mancunian, but as someone who, like many others across our city and our country, who in the last few weeks has lost loved ones to this terrible virus.

“We were offered £8 per head or, to put it another way, 30 seconds work for a consultant working on the collapsed Test and Trace system.

“Let me say this: £8 per person is an insult and now they are attempting to play us off against each other across GM.

“Well let me tell the Prime Minister, our mayor stood up for Greater Manchester but he spoke for Great Britain.”

Wales cases up by almost 1,000 overnight

There have been a further 962 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 38,361.

Public Health Wales said 14 further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,736.

Speaking of enforcement measures…

A football team has been fined £200 each for claiming to be from the same household in order to drink in their local pub.

The 12 men were together at a boozer in South Tyneside, near Newcastle, on Sunday night when a concerned staff member challenged them.

South Tyneside is classified as “high risk” Tier 2 under the Government’s Covid alert system, which means mixing between different households is prohibited and the “rule of six” still applies.

Read more…

Ministers are “urgently reviewing” Covid-19 powers which enable government officials to use “reasonable force” to make people self-isolate.

Conservative former Home Office minister Mark Harper welcomed regulations to put the requirement to self-isolate in law but told the Commons: “I have grave concerns about the powers to use reasonable force that have been given to state officials other than police officers who are simply not trained to use those powers safely.

“As a former Home Office minister, I think this risks the safety and lives of individuals.”

He asked health minister Edward Argar to assure him that these powers would be limited to police officers only, adding: “If he can’t give me that reassurance, I regret to say I am unable to support the measures on today’s order paper.”

Mr Argar replied: “We do appreciate concerns about the reasonable force allowances in the regulations. The powers to authorise persons other than the police and PCSOs to use reasonable force have not been used and there are no intentions to use them.

“But he does make his point well, as always, and we’re urgently reviewing these powers given concerns he and others have raised around proportionality of enforcement.”

Hospitality is being ‘hung out to dry’, Sheffield MP claims

Labour MP Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) argued hospitality businesses were being “hung out to dry”, adding the deal “doesn’t meet all the concerns of local leaders, nor does it provide the support that businesses need”.

He said: “Because they are not being required to close, they won’t get the support that they need, they are simply being hung out to dry.”

Mr Argar said the Government’s deal was “fair and proportionate”.

Tory Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge) said it was very important “that we do know what we’re aiming for”, adding: “Can he guarantee that he will have regular ongoing discussions with local leaders and local people about whether we’re heading in the right direction to make sure that people do know that we’re on the right track?”

Mr Argar replied: “The 28-day period is the sunset point at which these fall unless renewed or altered, there are actually reviews within 14 days, the secretary of state continues to monitor data and so will be reviewing progress at more frequent intervals.”

It comes after Government talks with Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham broke down over an extra £5m funding

Read more here:

PM confirms Greater Manchester will get the £60m for Tier 3 lockdown

Evening StandardBoris Johnson has now confirmed that Greater Manchester will get the £60million to support local businesses as Sir Keir Starmer tore into him over his “corrosive” local lockdown approach. The Prime Minister announced on Tuesday that he will plunge the region into the strictest coronavirus measures on Friday morning after talks with local leaders broke down. It comes after the government failed to reach an agreement with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham over financial support for going into Tier 3 measures.

No cap on length of time regions will remain under Tier 2 and 3

Regions in Tier 2 and 3 will remain under restrictions “as long as is necessary”, health minister Edward Argar said.

Responding to Labour, he told the Commons: “Areas in Tier 3 or in Tier 2 will remain in those areas as long as is necessary to protect the health of the local people and the NHS in that region.

“So he asked about the sort of things that will be relevant to when an area both enters it and comes out of it: infection rates per 100,000, the impact on the NHS of hospital capacity, and how full they are, and hospitalisation rates, as well as, of course, relying and listening to local knowledge from local public health officials.”

He added: “In respect of … neighbouring Tier 2 areas it is only at this point this announcement that we are planning to make. This is the only move that has been announced and that is currently being considered.”

Business leader slams wrangling between civic chiefs and Government

Wrangling over coronavirus support between local leaders and Whitehall “wastes vital time and erodes unity”, the leader of the Confederation of British Industry warned.

CBI director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Business is suffering badly from lack of clarity and delayed timing on financial support through lockdown.”

She said support must be available as soon as restrictions come into force.

Dame Carolyn said: “The Government urgently needs to move to a more standardised system of support for areas and businesses moving into Tiers 2 or 3, with buy-in across all regions.

“Local authorities should receive additional funds so they can target grants to businesses and others most in need.

“The Government’s contribution to the new job support scheme should be increased to protect jobs, especially in areas where firms are seeing demand fall away.

“Now is the time to press the reset button. National unity is the only way to defeat the virus and protect our economy.”

South Yorkshire moves to ‘very high’ alert level

Health minister Edward Argar indicated that action had to be taken in order to stop the spread of the virus in South Yorkshire.

He told the Commons: “We need to act now to prevent the epidemic in South Yorkshire continuing to grow. I am pleased to inform the House that following discussions this week, the Government has reached an agreement with South Yorkshire on a package of measures to drive down transmission.

“That means that South Yorkshire, so the city of Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster, will be moving to the local Covid alert level very high, taking effect at one minute past midnight on Saturday morning.

“This includes the baseline measures for the very high alert level which were agreed by the House earlier this month. And, as well as this, and as agreed with local leaders, unfortunately casinos, betting shops, adult gaming centres and soft play centres will also have to close.

“While gyms will remain open, classes will not be allowed.”

Jenrick offers to work together with Manchester’s local leaders

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he has written to the local leaders of Greater Manchester “inviting them to work with us at pace to design their business support schemes and ensure the funding reaches the people and businesses who need it”.

He said: “My officials at @Mhclg stand ready to assist – today.

“We will ensure these discussions are conducted in accordance with those proceeding productively with councils in Merseyside, Lancashire and South Yorkshire. The £60m support scheme comes in addition to the Job Support Scheme and grants of up to £3,000 for closed businesses. “

‘Worryingly high’ infection in older Welsh people

Wales’ health minister Vaughan Gething has said “worryingly high levels of infection” are being seen in the older population of the country.

He said the “firebreak”, which comes into force in Wales at 6pm on Friday, is designed to reduce transmission of coronavirus as much as possible by preventing household, workplace and social contacts.

“We’ve chosen to make the firebreak as short as possible but to be as effective as possible, it needs to be sharp and deep, including all parts of society, to have a maximum impact on the transmission of the virus,” Mr Gething said.

“Most importantly, it needs to target the main sources of transmission – places where people meet with other people.”

Mr Gething said the estimated R value – the number of people each coronavirus case infects – in Wales was between 1.1 and 1.4 but could be driven down to below one with the “firebreak”.

“This will slow the spread of the virus, reducing the infection rate, which ultimately means fewer people needing hospital treatment and fewer people dying,” he said.

Wales ‘could be overwhelmed’

Wales’s health minister Vaughan Gething has said there is “a very real risk” that the country’s health service would be overwhelmed without action being taken to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Scientific experts in Wales have calculated that the number of Covid-19 infections is growing by 4% each day in Wales, with an estimated 2,500 daily infections.

Mr Gething told a press conference there were 894 people in hospital with coronavirus, up 26% from last week.

“This is the highest that is has been since June this year,” Mr Gething said.

There are 43 people in critical care with Covid-19, which is 72% higher than last week and amounting to one in four critical care beds across Wales.

PM confirms Manchester will receive £60m

Sir Keir Starmer told Boris Johnson to “stop bargaining with people’s lives”.

He told the Commons: “On Friday, thousands of people in Greater Manchester – taxi drivers, pub and hospitality workers, people working in betting shops, the self-employed and freelancers will either be out of work or face significant pay cuts, that’s the reality on Friday in Greater Manchester.

“But their rent and their mortgage won’t be lower, their food and their heating bills won’t be lower, and that could last for months. Why can’t the Prime Minister and the Chancellor understand this? Stop bargaining with people’s lives, stop dividing communities and provide the support that’s needed in Manchester.”

Boris Johnson responded: “I’m very proud that this Government has already given Greater Manchester £1.1 billion in support for business, £200 million in extra un-ringfenced funding, £50 million to tackle infections in care homes, £20 million for test and trace, another £22 million for local response that we announced yesterday.

“Yesterday the Mayor of Greater Manchester was offered a further £60 million which he turned down with no encouragement, I may say support from (Sir Keir Starmer). So I can tell the House today that that cash will be distributed to the boroughs of Greater Manchester.”

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Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of violating new truce

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  • Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

image copyrightReuters

image captionA man removes debris in the Nagorno-Karabakh capital, Stepanakert

Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of violating a humanitarian ceasefire in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh within minutes of it coming into force.

A truce had been agreed to start at midnight local time (20:00 GMT Saturday).

But an Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman said Azerbaijan broke the ceasefire after just four minutes by firing artillery shells and rockets.

Azerbaijan is yet to respond to the allegations.

The decision on the ceasefire was taken in line with agreements that led to a ceasefire being signed last weekend. However, clashes continued despite that accord.

Fighting flared last month over a region internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but which is run by ethnic Armenians. Hundreds have died.

This is the worst violence in the region since a six-year war over the territory ended with a ceasefire in 1994.

  • What are Armenia and Azerbaijan fighting over?

  • Karabakh war leaves civilians shell-shocked and bitter
  • Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in pictures

Earlier on Saturday, both nations continued to trade accusations over violations of the Russian-brokered truce agreed last weekend and doubts are likely to remain following the latest statements.

What is the latest agreement?

Both nations confirmed the humanitarian truce, although few other details were given.

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said the decision was based on statements by the presidents of the US, France and Russia, representing the OSCE Minsk Group – a body set up in 1992 and chaired by the three countries to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

image copyrightEPA
image captionRescue workers at the scene of damage in the Azerbaijani city of Ganja

Anna Naghdalyan, spokesperson for Armenia’s foreign ministry carried the same statement in a tweet, adding it welcomed efforts towards a “ceasefire and de-escalation of tension” in the conflict zone.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who negotiated last weekend’s accord, spoke to counterparts in both countries on Saturday and said they needed to “strictly follow” the earlier agreement.

What is the latest on the ground?

“The enemy fired artillery shells in the northern direction from 00:04 to 02:45, (20:04 to 22:45 GMT Saturday) and fired rockets in the southern direction from 02:20 to 02:45,” Armenian defence ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said on Twitter.

Azerbaijan accused Armenia of a missile strike in the early hours of Saturday that killed at least 13 civilians and injured 45 in Ganja, a city far from the front lines.

A foreign ministry statement accused Armenia of “deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of civilians”.

media captionA ceasefire agreement has failed to stop the killing in Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian officials denied the attack, and accused Azerbaijan of attacking civilian areas.

Ms Stepanyan posted a video on Facebook which she said showed devastation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, accusing the Azerbaijani Armed Forces of striking at civilians with missiles in areas including the Nagorno-Karabakh capital, Stepanakert.

media captionUnder fire in Nagorno-Karabakh

Nagorno-Karabakh – key facts

  • A mountainous region of about 4,400 sq km (1,700 sq miles)
  • Traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks
  • In Soviet times, it became an autonomous region within the republic of Azerbaijan
  • Internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but majority of population is ethnic Armenian
  • An estimated one million people displaced by war in 1988-1994, and about 30,000 killed
  • Separatist forces captured some extra territory around the enclave in Azerbaijan in the 1990s war
  • Stalemate has largely prevailed since a 1994 ceasefire
  • Turkey openly supports Azerbaijan
  • Russia has military bases in Armenia

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Greece accuses Turkey of deliberately blocking flight path of foreign minister’s plane as rivals feud over maritime claims — RT World News

Ankara denied wrongdoing after Athens claimed a government aircraft was prevented from passing through Turkish airspace. The incident comes amid rising tensions between the two nations over maritime rights in the Mediterranean.

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Greece said on Thursday that a plane carrying its foreign minister back home from Iraq was forced to circle for 20 minutes before it received permission to cross into Turkish skies. Ankara insists the aircraft had not properly registered a flight plan and was allowed to proceed once it had informed Turkish authorities where it was going. Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said that a plane originally intended to transport the Greek foreign minister had malfunctioned in Iraq, and that Turkish authorities quickly granted permission to a back-up aircraft to make the journey instead, once it was made aware of the situation.

However, Athens alleges that there were sinister motives behind the delay. A spokesman for the Greek government described the episode as “one more provocation in Turkey’s series of provocations,” and said the foreign ministry had relayed its displeasure over the incident to Ankara.

The finger-pointing follows weeks of mounting hostility between the two longtime rivals, who are sparring over contested waters in the Eastern Mediterranean believed to be rich in oil and gas.  

Tensions were briefly defused after Turkey announced it would return a survey vessel exploring the disputed area to port. However, the ship resumed operations earlier this week, prompting condemnation from Athens, as well as Washington and Berlin.

Separately on Thursday, France and Germany called on Turkey to state its intentions in the disputed waters, accusing Ankara of provoking the European Union with its actions.

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Lindsey Graham accuses Dem opponent of ‘manufacturing’ outrage over segregation remark

Sen. Lindsey Graham on Wednesday accused his Democratic opponent of “manufacturing” outrage over a comment Graham made about the “good old days of segregation.”

Graham claimed his comment was “dripping with sarcasm” — and dismissed Democrat Jaime Harrison’s criticism.

“.@LindseyGrahamSC just called segregation ‘the good old days,’” Harrison had tweeted after Graham made the comment during a Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. “The good old days for who, Senator? It’s 2020, not 1920. Act like it.”

When questioned by a reporter during a recess, Graham balked at the idea that anyone who knows him wouldn’t realize he was being ironic.

“It was with deep sarcasm that I suggested that some legislative body would want to yearn for the good old days of segregationism,” Graham said emphatically. “The point that I’m trying to make, there’s nobody in America in the legislative arena wanting to take us back to that dark period in American history and for my opponent to suggest that says far more about him than me.”


Graham had been asking Barrett about the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which outlawed school segregation.

“One of the reasons you can say with confidence that you think Brown v. the Board of Education is super-precedent is that you are not aware of any effort to go back to the good old days of segregation by a legislative body, is that correct?” he asked and she agreed.


Graham said it “blows my mind” that anyone could think that about him and added the election was “not a game we’re playing with the people of South Carolina.

“Manufacturing the scenario that Lindsey Graham wants to go back to the days of segregation is not worthy of the times in which we live. It is not worthy of an assault on me,” the senator said.


The back-and-forth came as several recent polls showed the three-term senator and Harrison in a tight race that the influential Cook Political Report has labeled a “toss-up.”

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All Blacks coach puts heat on refs, accuses Wallabies of off-the-ball tactics

Gardner was also in the firing line for missing a Rieko Ioane foot into touch moments before the All Blacks motored downfield and scored their first try.

Angus Gardner, an assistant referee in Bledisloe I, will take the whistle at Eden Park.

Angus Gardner, an assistant referee in Bledisloe I, will take the whistle at Eden Park. Credit:Getty

While Plumtree didn’t name specific incidents, a Harry Wilson hit on Richie Mo’unga could have been considered late. Then there was James O’Connor’s contact which tripped Jordie Barrett after his final pass to Marika Koroibete before a Wallabies try. However, O’Connor only made contact with Barrett after Ioane made contact with him.

New Zealand won the penalty count 14-7 and will need to win two of the remaining three matches between the sides to retain the Bledisloe Cup, which they have held since 2003.

Plumtree’s calculated airing of the All Blacks’ grievances has added extra spice to the second Test.

“There were several occasions where there was some off-ball incidents but it’s got to be dealt with properly on the field,” Plumtree said. “We’ve got to be able to adjust to that … and I think that’s probably why you’ve got a couple of senior players in particular pretty fired up about it.

Referee Paul Williams awards a penalty in Wellington.

Referee Paul Williams awards a penalty in Wellington.Credit:Getty

“They see what they see, and if Paul missed stuff, then he’s missed it. But if it’s a consistent habit that he’s seeing and it’s not being looked after, then obviously we’d be disappointed.

“If their intent is greater than ours around off-ball incidents, then we’ve just got to make sure we have a crack back at them.”

Despite going on the front foot initially, Plumtree then insisted New Zealand wouldn’t let it affect them.


“But All Blacks don’t cry. We just get on with it and adjust to how the game is being refereed,” Plumtree said. “That’s in every department … and we have to adjust to how the game is being played.”

Meanwhile, the Wallabies are hoping to bring a similar level of intensity after the bruising encounter in Wellington.

While the Wallabies haven’t reported any injury concerns, the All Blacks are monitoring second-rower Sam Whitelock, as well as playmakers Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett.

Whitelock has suffered headaches since the match and is undergoing return to play protocols. Mo’unga copped a “stinger” and is still sore, while Barrett is back training lightly after being ruled out on the eve of the first Test with a minor achilles injury.

All Blacks reserve Anton Lienert-Brown, who worked under Wallabies coach Dave Rennie at the Chiefs, echoed the sentiment of other teammates that they didn’t match Australia’s physicality.

“I don’t think there was one person within the team who was too proud of what they put out,” Lienert-Brown said. “I needed to be better. Everyone is motivated to be better.

“Knowing Rens, I know how he coaches … I think the most disappointing thing is we talked about it all week but we didn’t meet their intent of physicality.”

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