Amazon union election to start in February, U.S. labor board says





FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, November 5, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

January 15, 2021

By Jeffrey Dastin

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc’s first U.S. union election since 2014 is scheduled to begin with the mailing of ballots in early February and a vote count starting March 30, a U.S. labor board official said in a filing on Friday.

The announcement brings employees at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama a step closer to deciding whether to join part of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). A “yes” vote would mark the first ever for a U.S. Amazon facility.

As of Jan. 7, Amazon employed almost 6,200 hourly workers at the warehouse, according to the filing. To win, the union needs a simple majority of those who submit ballots in the election.

While Amazon had preferred in-person voting, the labor board sided with the union on a mail-in procedure “because this is the safest and most appropriate method of conducting an election in view of the extraordinary circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the filing said.

Amazon did not immediately answer a request for comment. The RWDSU declined to comment.

(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)




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Lib MP takes swipe at party’s disastrous 2018 election campaign


“I was incredibly worried that some members of our community, perhaps many members of our community, interpreted our law and order policies in a particular way,” Mr Bach said.

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“I’ve heard, and our party has heard from especially members of the African community in Victoria, that they felt that the way in which we communicated some elements of our policies at the last election wasn’t correct.”

The MP, who was recently promoted to junior shadow minister for education, last year released a book titled Combating London’s Criminal Class: A State Divided, 1869-95, assessing the effectiveness of repressive and punitive measures on habitual criminals.

His book, the publisher’s blurb states, highlights the inconsistent and unsuccessful ways in which penal punishments were doled out to repeat offenders in 19th-century London.

Dr Bach concludes his book by comparing 1800s English criminal law to populist policies that still persist in modern-day Australia to detrimental effect. He pointed to measures such as mandatory minimum sentences and registers of offenders as examples of such policies.

“Knowledge of the course of British penal policy in the 1850s and 1860s makes it unsurprising that support for repressive measures continues,” Mr Bach states in his conclusion.

“But an understanding of legislation designed to suppress the criminal class in the mid- and late Victorian period should also lead us to be sceptical of the specific measures advocated by [Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party] in Australia and countless other organs of the press, pressure groups and politicians in any number of other countries.

Then-opposition leader Matthew Guy pledges a crime crackdown in 2018.Credit:Daniel Pockett

“This is despite the fact that many mid- and late Victorians undoubtedly came to think that the measures contained in the Habitual Criminals Act 1869 and the Prevention of Crime Act 1871 were ‘just common sense’.”

The prison population has almost doubled in the past decade and the annual cost of running the state’s jails is now more than $1.6 billion, triple the outlay in 2009-2010, because of tough-on-crime policies embraced by Labor and Liberal governments, a 2019 Age investigation reported.

Despite the mammoth spending on Corrections, 43.3 per cent of Victorian prisoners released in 2016–17 returned to prison within two years, according to Sentencing Advisory Council data released last year.

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The Liberal campaign leading up to the 2018 election was built around dozens of tough-on-crime policies with a pledge to “jail the gangs” and “get back in control” of law and order.

Then-opposition leader Matthew Guy pledged a Liberal government would introduce mandatory minimum sentences for repeat violent offenders, despite mounting evidence suggesting they do not work to prevent crime.

Following Mr Nutt’s election review, Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said in November 2019 that the Liberal Party would “never walk away” from keeping Victorians safe.

Dr Bach said the party needed to get back to its “traditional” roots on law and order, and put rehabilitation at its core in reforming the criminal justice system.

He cited the Baillieu government’s establishment in 2012 of Parkville College to educate children in youth detention facilities as a successful Liberal Party policy that focused on rehabilitation and restorative justice.

“We’ve known for many years you need to approach individuals who over a period of time have a history of offending with a whole range of evidence-based interventions,” Dr Bach said.

“Deterrence has to be an element, punishment has to be part of the system and in Victoria we need to do far better to rehabilitate offenders for a whole range of reasons: for themselves, their families, but ultimately to keep the community safe.”

Mr O’Brien was contacted for comment.

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Uganda leader wins vote, rigging alleged


Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni has won a sixth term in office, election officials have confirmed, despite his top challenger Bobi Wine dismissing the results as “cooked-up” and “fraudulent”.

Polling chiefs also struggled to explain how the results of the election were compiled amid an internet blackout.

But 76-year-old Museveni, in power since 1986, dismissed the allegations of fraud in an evening address to the nation, saying Thursday’s election may turn out to be the “most cheating free” in Uganda’s history.

In a generational clash watched across the African continent, the 38-year-old singer-turned-legislator Wine was arguably Museveni’s greatest challenge yet in almost 35 years in power.

The self-styled “ghetto president”, Wine enjoyed strong support in urban centres where frustration with unemployment and corruption is high. He has claimed victory.

In a phone interview from his home, which he said was surrounded by soldiers, Wine urged the international community to “please call General Museveni to order” by withholding aid, imposing sanctions and using Magnitsky legislation to hold alleged human rights abusers accountable.

Wine repeated that all legal options are being considered, including challenging the results in court, and called for peaceful protests.

Uganda’s electoral commission said Museveni received 58 per cent of the vote and Wine 34 per cent, with voter turnout at 52 per cent in a process which the top US diplomat to Africa called “fundamentally flawed”.

Wine has said he is alone with his wife, Barbie, and a single security guard after police told a private security company to withdraw its protection ahead of Thursday’s election.

He said he will not leave Uganda and abandon its 45 million people to the kind of treatment he has faced.

The vote followed the East African country’s worst pre-election violence since Museveni took office in 1986.

Wine and other candidates were beaten or harassed, and more than 50 people were killed when security forces put down riots in November following Wine’s arrest.

Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was detained several times while campaigning but never convicted. He said he feared for his life.

In response to his allegations of vote-rigging, Uganda’s electoral commission said Wine should prove it. Wine says he has video evidence and will share it once internet access is restored.

The commission also deflected questions about how countrywide voting results were transmitted during the internet blackout by saying “we designed our own system”.

Tracking the vote was further complicated by the arrests of independent monitors and the denial of accreditation to most members of the American observer mission, leading the US to call it off.

Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa, tweeted: “Uganda’s electoral process has been fundamentally flawed.”

He called for the immediate and full restoration of internet access, and warned that that “the US response hinges on what the Ugandan government does now”.

Museveni, once praised as part of a new generation of African leaders and a long-standing US security ally, still has support among some in Uganda for bringing stability.

The UK called for the concerns about the election to be investigated.

“It is important these concerns are raised, investigated and resolved in a peaceful, legal and constitutional manner,” Britain’s minister for Africa James Duddridge said.

Uganda’s elections are often marred by allegations of fraud and abuses by security forces.

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‘Big lies are part of authoritarian regime changes in history’ – Prof Timothy Snyder on Trump election fraud claims – Channel 4 News


In Washington, security is being ramped up ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, amid increasing concerns about security.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump faces trial in the Senate after becoming the first US president to be impeached for a second time and leading Republicans are increasingly divided over his fate.

We were joined by Prof Timothy Snyder, a historian specialising in fascism and political atrocity at Yale University

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What the cabinet shuffle does (and doesn’t) say about the next election


A cabinet shuffle in January (to borrow phrasing one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s predecessors) doesn’t necessarily mean an election — but this one does help position the Liberals for an election if necessary.

It’s routine for governments to replace ministers who decide they will not be part of the team seeking re-election at the next vote. Liberal MP Navdeep Bains recently announced he would not run in the next election in order to spend more time with his family.

That prompted the shuffle which tasked François-Philippe Champagne with filling Bains’ old cabinet spot as minister of innovation, science and industry. Marc Garneau took over the foreign affairs portfolio, while Omar Alghabra was promoted from his parliamentary secretary role to replace Garneau as transport minister. And Jim Carr returns to cabinet as a special representative for the Prairies.

Announcing the shuffle from the steps of Rideau Cottage, Trudeau was asked repeatedly if the move foreshadows an election in the spring. The prime minister did not explicitly rule out an early election, saying he’d prefer not to go into a campaign before all Canadians who want one can get a vaccine for COVID-19.

WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the prospects for an early election

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explains if he will call an election before every Canadian who wants to be is vaccinated. 0:36

That will not stop rampant election speculation — the national capital’s favourite pastime during minority parliaments.

There are simply too many moving pieces to see this shuffle as a clear sign that an election call is coming — possibly one tied to the budget in February or March.

The pandemic and the national vaccination campaign are only the biggest and most unpredictable of those moving pieces, but they’re more than enough to upend any election plans that might exist.

Now that Ontario has released grim modelling numbers that suggest the pandemic is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, any plan to call an election in a few months would depend on a lot of things beyond the Liberals’ control going exactly right for them.

So this shuffle appears to be about being ready for an election call whenever it comes, rather than preparing for one already being planned. A minority government’s odds of suddenly collapsing increase the longer it lasts — and Trudeau’s government is approaching the usual best-by date of minority governments in Canada.

The Liberals want to be ready to call an election if the opportunity presents itself, or if the opposition parties team up to defeat them. The window is relatively limited, considering that both Ontario and Quebec are scheduled to hold provincial elections in 2022.

But if an election does come in 2021, this week’s shuffle moves some pieces into place for the Liberals.

The minister for Mississauga

With the exception of Carr being added to the cabinet table (though without a ministry to run), the shuffle didn’t change the provincial allocation of portfolios. It didn’t even change the regional distribution of cabinet spots within provinces.

But with his promotion to cabinet, Alghabra now becomes the unofficial minister for Mississauga.

Bains was first elected in the riding of Mississauga–Brampton South (as it was then called) in 2004. He’s been on the ballot in every subsequent election, losing only in 2011. He returned to the House of Commons by winning Mississauga–Malton in 2015 and was named to Trudeau’s first cabinet.

Alghabra also has a long track record in Mississauga, stretching back to 2006 when he was first elected. He was defeated in 2008 and 2011 but won the Mississauga Centre seat in 2015 and 2019.

The new minister has handled some difficult files as the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary. He worked with victims’ families after Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down in Iran last year, for example.

But electorally, Bains and Alghabra have also played important roles in marshalling support for the Liberals in their part of the Greater Toronto Area.

Omar Alghabra (left) was moved into the transport portfolio vacated by Marc Garneau (right) when he was named Canada’s new foreign minister in Tuesday’s cabinet shuffle. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

And the GTA is an electorally decisive part of the country. Combined, Mississauga and its neighbouring cities of Brampton, Oakville and Burlington delivered 15 seats to the Liberals in the 2019 federal election, as many as the Liberals won in all of Western Canada.

After 2019, the GTA was rewarded with three cabinet ministers: Bains, International Development Minister Karina Gould (Burlington) and Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand (Oakville).

Sweeping the region was an important factor in the Liberals’ victory in the last election. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have struggled for traction there; the CPC averaged a loss of 5.1 percentage points between the 2015 and 2019 elections in Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville and Burlington, losing support in all but one seat.

It’s part of a broader trend the Conservatives desperately need to reverse. Since 2011, the party has lost an average of 14.7 points in ridings in the region. There are few parts of Canada where the Conservatives have lost more support over the last decade.

The Liberals need to keep it that way if they want to win the next election. Ensuring that Mississauga still has its minister after Bains’ departure could help them do that.

Nod to the Prairies and another top post for Quebec

The electoral implications of the other moves made by Trudeau are more modest. With his return to cabinet, Carr joins fellow Manitoban Dan Vandal as the only Liberal minister representing a seat east of Vancouver and west of Thunder Bay.

Styled as the special representative for the Prairies, Carr’s role is an explicit recognition of this government’s weak ties to the West. With no seats in either Alberta or Saskatchewan, the government’s options are limited. So are its prospects for electoral gains in the region.

That’s not the case for Quebec, however, which is key to the Liberals’ hope of re-gaining a majority government.

Jim Carr is one of only two members of cabinet (both from Manitoba) who represent a riding between Vancouver and Thunder Bay, Ont. (Jeff McIntosh / Canadian Press)

For the Liberals, moving Garneau from transport to foreign affairs represents a promotion for a reliable, consistent and steady performer — and for a Quebecer with a top spot around the cabinet table.

There were seven ridings in Quebec in which the Liberals finished six percentage points or fewer behind the winner. Flipping those seats alone would put the Liberals halfway to a majority government.

That assumes they can keep what they won last time — which isn’t a given. The Bloc Québécois, still second in the polls in the province, finished within six points of the Liberals in 10 seats across Quebec.

It might be reading too much into things to assume this week’s cabinet shuffle is all about an imminent election. But in a minority Parliament, politics is always more or less about the next election — and this shuffle is no exception.

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Uganda bans social media ahead of presidential election


At 38, Wine is half the age of President Yoweri Museveni and has attracted a large following among young people in a nation where 80 per cent of the population are under 30, rattling the ruling National Resistance Movement party.

Wine is considered the frontrunner among 10 candidates challenging Museveni, the former guerrilla leader who seized power in 1986 and brought stability to a country after the murderous reigns of dictators Milton Obote and Idi Amin.

While security forces have intimidated the opposition at previous elections, the run up to this year’s vote has been especially violent. In November, 54 people were killed as soldiers and police quelled protests after Wine was detained.

On Tuesday, Wine said soldiers raided his home in Kampala and arrested his guards while he was giving an interview to a Kenyan radio station. He also said a team member who works mainly as a mechanic was shot dead by the military overnight.

Bobi Wine, 38, is considered the frontrunner among 10 candidates challenging Museveni.Credit:AP

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the claims and a military spokesmen did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Patrick Onyango, police spokesman for the capital Kampala, denied Wine’s home had been raided or that anyone was arrested, saying: “We were just rearranging our security posture in the area near his home, specifically removing some checkpoints.”

‘Unacceptable breaches’

A source in Uganda’s telecom sector said the government had made clear to executives at telecoms companies that the social media ban was in retaliation for Facebook blocking some pro-government accounts.

Neither Ibrahim Bbossa, Uganda Communications Commission spokesman nor government spokesman Ofwono Opondo answered calls requesting comment. An aide to Minister of Information Judith Nabakooba said she was unable to comment at the moment.

The US social media giant said on Monday it had taken down a network in Uganda linked to the country’s ministry of information for using fake and duplicate accounts to post ahead of this week’s election.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company had no comment on reports users were facing difficulties accessing the platform.

“Any efforts to block online access to journalists or members of the public are unacceptable breaches of the right to information,” the International Press Institute, a global media watchdog, said in a statement.

Wine has been using Facebook to relay live coverage of his campaigns and news conferences after he said many media outlets had declined to host him. Most radio and TV stations are owned by government allies and Uganda’s leading daily is state-run.

Museveni, 76, has won every election since the first under his presidency in 1996, though they have been tarnished by intimidation of the opposition and accusations of vote rigging.

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Uganda is a Western ally, a prospective oil producer and is considered a stabilising force in a region where war has plagued some neighbours. It also contributes the biggest contingent of an African Union force fighting Islamist insurgents in Somalia.

Museveni said on Twitter that he would address the nation at 7pm local time on Tuesday.

The European Union is not deploying election observers as advice from previous observers about how to make the polls fair went unheeded, the bloc’s ambassador to Uganda has said. The African Union will deploy observers.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Wine and two other opposition candidates – Patrick Amuriat and Mugisha Muntu – urged Ugandans to turn out and “protect their vote” by staying at polling stations to observe counting.

Reuters

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Malaysia emergency declaration means Prime Minister Yassin can dodge election




Malaysia emergency declaration means Prime Minister Yassin can dodge election | Fortune

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Trump’s Effort To Overturn The Election Should Be Investigated Like 9/11


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that Democrats are moving forward with trying to remove President Donald Trump from office.

— News reports have said there have been discussions involving cabinet officers, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. What was the nature of these deliberations, and what testimony would administration officials give to illuminate Trump’s psychological stability or his willingness to execute faithfully the law and duties of his office?

— What role is Trump’s pardon power playing in his deliberations, or in conversations with allies, over how to cling to power?

— What were the precise interactions between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence? To Trump’s anger, Pence released a statement saying he had no constitutional power to intervene in Biden’s election certification, but the statement also embraced the view that there were pervasive questions about the counting of the 2020 presidential vote. Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, said after Pence’s announcement he was denied access to the White House grounds, apparently on orders from Trump.

— Most profound, arguably, is the basic question: Who, if anyone, is actually running the government? Journalists have described Trump, during the midst of a deadly pandemic, as largely checked out from most work beyond fulminating angrily about the election and his assertion that it was stolen.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday called Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley expressing concern about an erratic Trump ordering an ill-considered military action as he clings to power, and apparently urging Milley to have the military resist that if he tries. The notion that these types of conversations are taking place in the leadership of a country armed with nuclear weapons, and facing adversaries who have them also, is breathtaking. Let’s hope we stay lucky. But it’s entirely possible a full inquiry might reveal the Trump transition as among the most perilous moments in national security since 9/11 or the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Note that most of the questions listed above do not pertain directly to the scores of questions over how Capitol security was breached and what happened immediately before, during, and after that emergency. Many of those questions likely will fall directly in the provinces of the criminal justice system, and of Congress’s own inquiries into the security failure.

Trump’s transition, however, has been a comprehensive outrage, and therefore needs a comprehensive examination. Many of Trump’s actions, or those of his allies, may not be narrowly illegal but could still raise foundational issues of a political or policy nature. Punishing the guilty is one task. Illuminating the public record in an authoritative way is another. And this illumination should be insulated as much as possible from partisan influence.

That’s why the 9/11 Commission comparison is relevant. The commission had a mandate to look at systemic factors that preceded the 9/11 attacks, and recommendations for what the government should do in the future. As its executive director, Philip Zelikow, later explained: “I think it is healthy organizations and countries to conduct such after-action reports, especially if there has been a major national trauma. Not just an inspector general-type of report, wagging your finger, looking for the government misconduct – though there is that part of it – but more like ‘What really happened here? Why did this happen?’ To understand it in a full way and then prepare a report that could be provided to the American people, as well as the recommendations as to how we could avoid this in the future.”

Trump’s effort to undermine an effective transition and public confidence in the legitimacy of the presidential election is an assault on the nation’s system of governance that must be avoided in the future. A commission with credible figures from both parties on it could take into account the need to protect ongoing criminal prosecutions and executive privilege. (After Trump leaves office, his privilege claims over his actions during the transition should be virtually nil.)

Most importantly, a commission could highlight recommendations for reforms. The Trump transition has magnified subjects that have long seemed indefensible, such as the abuse of the pardon process to help cronies and contributors, or the dangerous Cold War policy of presidential sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. The exercise needn’t be simply a cudgel against Trump. Perhaps there would be recommendations on how to increase public confidence in elections during major outside events like a pandemic or war.

Another reason for a commission is because many of the events of the past ten weeks are ripe targets for being mythologized in distorted ways. The terrorists who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 believed they were righteously avenging the government’s catastrophic effort to end a siege at a Waco cult compound two years before.

The grievances and malice that animate national politics aren’t going away, but their most noxious expressions can be mitigated by establishing a clear and credible record of how this presidential transition went off the rails.

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Canada PM Trudeau says there could well be an election soon, doesn’t want one



FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference at Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada January 5, 2021. REUTERS/Blair Gable

January 8, 2021

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made clear for the first time on Friday there could well be an election this year, indicating his government is preparing for a vote he insists he does not want.

Trudeau’s Liberal Party only controls a minority of seats in the House of Commons, which means he needs the support of opposition parties to govern and can be brought down if they unite against him.

Trudeau, who says his priority is tackling the coronavirus epidemic, has previously sidestepped questions about an election, saying merely that one was theoretically possible.

“Obviously, we are in a minority government, and that could well happen,” he told Montreal’s CHOU 1450 AM radio station when asked about the chances of a vote in the coming months.

“Our priority as a government is going to be helping people get through this pandemic … it’s not in our interests to have an election,” he added. The last election was in October 2019.

Asked about the prime minister’s comments, a government official said Trudeau had made clear many times that he “doesn’t necessarily get to chose when an election is going to come. Canadians want to see their government there for them and that’s what we’re focused on”.

The official requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the situation.

A string of recent opinion polls suggests that the Liberals, while ahead of their Conservative rivals, would most likely fall short of winning a majority.

Liberal insiders told Reuters last month that a snap election was likely at some point in 2021 rather than at the scheduled end of Trudeau’s four-year term in 2023.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Nick Zieminski)



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Clive Palmer says his United Australia Party will not contest WA state election


Queensland billionaire Clive Palmer says his United Australia Party (UAP) will not contest the WA state election in March.

In a statement released on Sunday, Mr Palmer said his party would not field any candidates and that he would be withdrawing a defamation case against Premier Mark McGowan.

Mr McGowan’s office couldn’t confirm it had received any notice of the defamation claims being removed.

The decision comes after UAP failed to win a single seat at the Queensland state election in October, and after Mr Palmer lost a legal bid in November to have WA’s hard border deemed unconstitutional.

In his statement, Mr Palmer said Mr McGowan can “breathe easy” knowing his party won’t be standing.

“Mark McGowan must be under enormous pressure so I don’t want to cause him any more stress during the festive season,” he said.

“The WA Premier has repeatedly attacked me and still faces defamation actions. I have had my lawyers write to him over Christmas saying that I will remove those actions even though everyone knows he is guilty.

“Christmas is a time for forgiveness and mercy walks hand in hand with justice.

A spokeswoman for Mark McGowan said Mr Palmer had not ruled out running a negative ad campaign against the Government.(ABC News)

A spokeswoman for McGowan released a statement saying, “Western Australians will never forget that Clive Palmer tried to pull down the border against health advice and is still trying to take the state for $30 billion”.

“The Liberal Party sided with Clive Palmer and now he will do whatever he can to support the Liberals and Nationals at the election.

“Clive Palmer [has] not ruled out spending millions of dollars running a negative advertising campaign against the State Government, similar to his previous ads Western Australians had to endure.

The spokeswoman also said, “Clive Palmer should withdraw all his legal actions against WA and the Premier.”

Kirkup says major parties stand united against Palmer

WA Liberal Party leader Zak Kirkup said while his party has done deals in previous elections with the UAP, he was glad the United Australia Party will not contest.

“I think it’s important that Mr Palmer and any other shallow millionaire who has too much time or money on their hands doesn’t try and use the WA democracy as a plaything,” he said.

Mr Kirkup said he’s also in support of Mr Palmer’s intention to drop his defamation action against the Premier.

“What we see from the likes of Clive Palmer is continual hot air and bluster and very little substance, so I welcome Clive Palmer’s continual withdrawal from West Australian and I hope Australian politics,” he said.

“This is what we expect from Clive, he says one thing and often does another. It’s up to us here as the major political parties to stand united against Mr Palmer’s influence.”

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