Former Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe to resign from politics in March

Liberal MLA Alistair Coe, who served as ACT opposition leader until his election loss last year, has announced he will resign from politics in March.

Mr Coe has been a member for Yerrabi since being elected in 2008 at the age of just 24.

In a statement, Mr Coe said he would resign in time for his casual vacancy to be filled before the ACT Legislative Assembly sits for the first time in 2021.

“In the weeks since the 2020 election, I’ve had the opportunity to contemplate my future. I am proud of what I have achieved and my commitment to the ACT over the past 12 years,” Mr Coe said.

“Whilst I am not sure what the future has in store for me, my passion for Canberra and the Liberals remains strong.”

Mr Coe has been quiet since ceding the leadership of the Canberra Liberals to Elizabeth Lee after his election defeat in October last year.

But he said his energy has faded after so long serving in opposition.

“I really have given it everything I’ve got. To be a politician requires a huge amount of commitment, a huge amount of passion,” Mr Coe said.

“It’s like being in the cockpit of a plane – you’re there, you can see the controls, but you can’t touch them. That is frustrating.”

Mr Coe developed a reputation over his political career as a conservative in the shape of former party leader Zed Seselja, and briefly gained national attention as the only federal, state or territory party leader to oppose legalising same-sex marriage during the postal survey.

He was also regarded as a fierce scrutineer in committees, grilling politicians and agency heads with a deep knowledge of the bureaucracy.

He said one of his proudest achievements had been helping to expose several questionable land deals.

Party leaders pay tribute

In a statement, now-Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee said he had been a “great friend” to multicultural and faith communities in Canberra.

“It has been my pleasure to work with Alistair,” Ms Lee said.

“Canberra is richer for his service to our great city.”

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said his absence would be noticed in the chamber.

“Politics is tough. I respect Mr Coe’s decision to resign from the Assembly and wish he and his family all the best for the future,” Mr Barr said.

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said as the longest-serving member in the Assembly, Mr Coe had shown a dedication to the Canberra community.

“While we often disagreed heartily about issues, Alistair represented his beliefs and his constituency in a genuine and heartfelt manner,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“Having worked with Alistair on a number of committees and pieces of legislation over the years, I have always appreciated both his attention to detail and a willingness to find a way through contested discussions — something important in politics when you are trying to get the best outcomes for the community.”

Mr Coe’s departure from his seat in Yerrabi will trigger a countback of votes, and the next in line is his fellow Liberal Party member James Milligan, who lost his seat at the election.

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Trudeau first foreign leader to speak with Biden

Joe Biden’s White House has a lot in common cause with Canada, Justin Trudeau said Friday as he urged people to look past the new U.S. president’s decision to kill off the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The two countries have great partnership potential in the Biden era, particularly when it comes to a shared vision of tackling climate change while fuelling economic growth, the prime minister said.

“It’s not always going to be perfect alignment with the United States; that’s the case with any given president,” he told a news conference outside his Rideau Cottage residence.

“In a situation where we are much more aligned — on values, on focus, on the work that needs to be done to give opportunities for everyone while we build a better future — I’m very much looking forward to working with President Biden.”

The two leaders spoke for about 30 minutes late Friday — Biden’s first phone call with a foreign leader since taking office.

Trudeau expressed Canada’s “disappointment” with the Keystone decision, and Biden acknowledged the difficulties it has caused, said a federal official familiar with what was discussed.

“The Prime Minister underscored the important economic and energy security benefits of our bilateral energy relationship as well as his support for energy workers,” says the readout of their conversation released by the Office of the Prime Minister.

“The Prime Minister and President reiterated the urgent need for ambitious action on climate change, reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement, and agreed to work together on net-zero emissions, zero-emissions vehicles, cross-border clean electricity transmission, and the Arctic.”

By and large, the tone of the call was “overwhelmingly positive,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the call.

Trudeau also expressed concern about Biden’s Buy American plan to ensure U.S. workers and manufacturers are the primary beneficiaries of his economic recovery strategy.

The leaders agreed to continue to discuss Canada’s concerns about an issue that the two sides have been discussing for months, and will continue to talk about as the administration finds its feet, the source suggested.

Biden and Trudeau also agreed to meet next month, although it’s not clear given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic what form that meeting would take.

Earlier Friday, Trudeau said the federal government would be there to support oilpatch workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan who have been hurt by Biden’s decision.

But there’s little doubt the fight is far from over, particularly if Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has anything to say about it.

“The United States is setting a deeply disturbing precedent for any future projects and collaboration between our two nations,” Kenney wrote in a letter to Trudeau he released Friday on Twitter.

“The fact that it was a campaign promise makes it no less offensive. Our country has never surrendered our vital economic interests because a foreign government campaigned against them.”

Biden believes a brisk economic recovery doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama, who blocked the project in 2015, and as president he still does, Psaki said.

Kenney and other champions of the project, including Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., argue it has changed significantly since the Obama administration cancelled it five years ago.

As word emerged this week of the project’s imminent demise, Calgary-based owner TC Energy revealed plans to spend US$1.7 billion on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it achieves net-zero emissions by 2030.

Kenney wrote Wednesday’s decision came “without taking the time to discuss it with their longest-standing ally,” although Hillman insists she has been in near-constant discussions with the Biden team ever since May, when they promised to cancel the project.

He called the decision a violation of the investor-protection provisions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and called on Trudeau to press the U.S. for compensation on behalf of TC Energy and the Alberta government.

“I strongly urge you to ensure that there are proportionate economic consequences in response to these unfair U.S. actions,” Kenney wrote.

“If the U.S. is unwilling to listen, then we must demonstrate that Canada will stand up for Canadian workers and the Canadian economy.”

Biden’s decision has critics among U.S. conservatives as well: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader, called it a job-killing “virtue signal” to climate crusaders.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz accused Biden of erasing 11,000 potential jobs in the U.S. “with the stroke of a pen … by presidential edict.” Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the president was “pandering to fringe activists.”

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said the move does little besides kill jobs, “disappoint our strong ally, Canada, and reverse some of our progress toward energy security.”

And Idaho senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo both signed on to co-sponsor a Republican bill aimed at allowing construction on the project to continue, despite Biden’s decision to rescind the permit.

“The Keystone project is the linchpin of America’s energy independence and job creation strategy,” Risch said in a statement.

“Shutting it down leaves us dependent on the likes of OPEC and Russia to help power the country and undermines the pact we made with our northern ally, Canada, which remains supportive of the project.”

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Mount Gambier tourism leader hopes to see visitor surge on the radar as Qantas arrival looms

The long-awaited arrival of a second passenger airline in Mount Gambier is expected to provide a welcome boost to regional tourism with more destinations for travellers on the horizon.

Qantas will begin operation from the Mount Gambier Regional Airport terminal on March 28 with five weekly return flights to both Adelaide and Melbourne.

While the region will be buoyed by a second service to those cities, it is the potential for expansion to more destinations that could provide the most significant boost.

Even though a Qantas plane is yet to land on the Mount Gambier tarmac, QantasLink chief executive officer John Gissing says it is already exploring that potential.

“We’re focused on adding new routes to regions that we think have genuine growth potential,” a spokesperson said.

‘Absolutely fabulous’

Limestone Coast Local Government Association (LCLGA) destination development manager Biddie Shearing said it would be a huge coup to connect with other airports in the country.

“It would be great to support our South Australian regional airports, like up to the Barossa, Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln and even the Flinders Ranges,” she said.

“The ability to be more connected and to bunny hop around our state would be just absolutely fabulous.

“And for us, as a region right on the border, to be able to bring people across from Melbourne and introduce them to SA and then sort of send them off.”

Ms Shearing said the LCLGA would embrace any opportunity to link with destinations even further afield.

Ms Shearing says a second carrier could unlock new opportunities for the region.(ABC South East: Todd Lewis)

“We will work closely with the SA Tourism Commission to leverage those opportunities when they arise.”

Ms Shearing said the increase in fly-in services would help put the Limestone Coast on the map.

“Now we have the drop-down box that says MTG for both Rex Airlines and Qantas and while it is a little thing, that digital visibility can’t be understated,” she said.

More services to drive opportunities

A large uptake of air travel services in recent history has been from those travelling for business.

Ms Shearing believed an increase in services should drive opportunities in the region.

“We now have the flexibility to be able to go to a tradeshow and talk to potential conference organisers and say, ‘It’s smooth running, there’s two options to fly in and out of our region and we’ve got a fabulous new facility.'”

Rex holds ‘grave concerns’ about Qantas impact

Rex Airlines remains concerned about the arrival of Qantas carriers to regional centres such as Mount Gambier.

It believes QantasLink will have devastating impacts on long-term regional aviation.

A Regional Express passenger aircraft at Mount Gambier Regional Airport after touching down from Melbourne
Regional Express has called Qantas’s move an “attack”.(ABC South East SA: Sandra Morello)

“Qantas is trying to weaken Rex by attacking its profitable regional operations, even at the cost of heavy losses for itself,” said a spokesperson in a statement late last year.

“History has shown that once regional airlines are squeezed out, the loss is permanent and regional and rural communities suffer the consequences.”

However, Ms Shearing expected people to continue to support the airline and believed this would just create another option for consumers.

“We will now just have that choice for consumers at a time where domestic travel will increase.”

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Green Party leader on Keystone XL news

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul reacts to reports U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has indicated he plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit via executive action on his first day in office.

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New CDU leader lags Bavarian premier in race to succeed Merkel

New CDU leader lags Bavarian premier in race to succeed Merkel

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to fly home despite arrest threat

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is due to fly back to Russia for the first time since he was poisoned last summer, despite the authorities’ stated desire to arrest him and potentially jail him for years.

Mr Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic critics, announced his decision to return from Germany this week, saying he missed Moscow and was not interested in what he called new fabricated criminal cases against him.

A day later, the Russian capital’s prison service said it would do everything to arrest him once he returned, accusing him of flouting the terms of a suspended prison sentence for embezzlement, a 2014 case he says was trumped-up.

Mr Navalny, 44, is expected to fly from Berlin, where he was flown in August for emergency medical treatment after being poisoned with what German tests showed was a Novichok nerve agent, and to arrive in Moscow on Sunday (local time).

The opposition politician, who says he has nearly fully recovered, says Mr Putin was behind his poisoning.

The Kremlin denies involvement, says it has seen no evidence he was poisoned and that he is free to return to Russia.

Mr Putin recently said in a national address that: “If someone had wanted to poison him they would have finished him off.”

Mr Navalny’s supporters plan to meet him at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport despite a forecast of bitterly cold minus-17 Celsius weather and over 4,500 new coronavirus cases a day in the Russian capital.

The Moscow prosecutor’s office, which says it has officially warned 15 pro-Navalny organisers, has said the event is illegal because it is not sanctioned by the authorities. That means that people who turn up could be detained, fined or jailed.

Pro-Kremlin activists are also expected to turn up.

Navalny hopes to run in September elections

The prison service, which has asked a Moscow court to turn Mr Navalny’s 3.5-year suspended sentence into a real one, said it was “obliged to take all the necessary action to detain Navalny pending the court’s ruling”.

The European Court for Human Rights had ruled that his conviction was unlawful.

In a parallel move at the end of 2020, Russia’s main investigative agency also opened a new criminal case against Mr Navalny on charges of large-scale fraud related to his alleged mishandling of $US5 million ($6.5 million) in private donations to his Anti-Corruption Foundation and other organisations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles
Mr Putin publicly dismisses the political threat posed by Mr Navalny.(Kremlin: Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Mr Navalny, who is hoping for success in parliamentary elections in September, has dismissed all accusations as crudely fabricated.

Mr Putin’s allies point to opinion polls that show the Russian leader is far more popular than Mr Navalny, whom they call a blogger rather than a politician.

A Moscow court on Saturday ordered a Navalny ally, Pavel Zelensky, to be held in pre-trial detention on extremism charges which he denies.

On the eve of his return to Russia, Mr Navalny took to Facebook to thank Germans for what he described as their stereotype-breaking friendly hospitality in the last five months.

“Thank you friends!” he wrote in German.


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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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Armin Laschet elected leader of Angela Merkel’s party

Berlin: Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) elected Armin Laschet as chairman on Saturday, aiming to unify their divided party behind a new leader they hope can succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor when she steps down at federal elections in September.

Laschet, the governor of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia – Germany’s most populous – won a runoff vote against Friedrich Merz, securing 521 votes against 466 for his arch-conservative rival, according to a ballot of 1001 party delegates. A third candidate, prominent lawmaker Norbert Roettgen, was eliminated in a first round of voting.

Armin Laschet will helm Germany's Christian Democratic Union and is well placed to either run to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor or to be the kingmaker.

Armin Laschet will helm Germany’s Christian Democratic Union and is well placed to either run to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor or to be the kingmaker.Credit:AP

Saturday’s vote isn’t the final word on who will run as the centre-right candidate for chancellor in Germany’s September 26 election, but Laschet will either run for chancellor or have a major say in who does.

By tradition, the CDU chairman is usually – though not always – the chancellor candidate for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the conservative bloc is on course to win September’s federal ballot.

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Russia Navalny: Poisoned opposition leader says he will fly home

Alexei Navalny says he will fly back on 17 January, months after he was sent to Germany for treatment.

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Leader with a difference | The Indian Express

Madhavsinh Solanki, the four-time Gujarat chief minister who passed away aged 93 on Saturday, was a politician and a man of ideas. The social coalition he invented in the 1970s — KHAM — allowed the Congress to regain the ground it had lost during the Navnirman Movement and win consecutive elections in 1980 and 1985, with a record number of seats. The KHAM alliance included the Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim communities, which constituted over 50 per cent of the state’s population. As CM, Solanki backed this coalition by introducing reservations for OBCs in education and employment. However, it triggered a backlash from the upper castes, who had until then operated the levers of power in Gujarat. Though Solanki returned to office with a larger majority in 1985, he had to resign following anti-reservation riots that acquired a communal turn. The Congress could neither consolidate the social coalition Solanki had forged or translate the goodwill among the OBCs, tribals etc. into a lasting electoral base. In fact, his leaving state politics to become a Rajya Sabha member and the External Affairs Minister in P V Narasimha Rao’s cabinet allowed the BJP to grow in Gujarat — of course, on the back of the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement.

Schooled in M N Roy’s Radical Humanism and influenced by peasant leader Indulal Yagnik, Solanki stood apart from his Congress contemporaries. As CM, he introduced mid-day meals in schools and made education free for girls. For him, KHAM was not just an electoral tactic but the extension of a social vision that promised the fruits of democracy and electoral office to a wide section of the society. He is credited with shaping the Congress response to the Mandal Commission after the VP Singh government announced its implementation in 1990 — the party backed OBC reservations at the Centre but argued for the exclusion of the creamy layer among the beneficiary communities from Mandal’s remit.

Solanki’s political career ended following an act of impropriety undertaken, allegedly on the orders of his party, in the Bofors case while he was a Union minister. Forced to quit office, he retired from active politics and retreated to his home and library.

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