Kidman, Hanks speak out against Weinstein

Nicole Kidman has told young actresses to “make sure you are protected” as she spoke out on allegations of sexual assault facing Harvey Weinstein.

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The Australian actress followed up a statement applauding those accusing the movie mogul of harassment and assault by urging women to stay strong.

She told Magic Radio: “Particularly for a young girl, it’s ‘take care of yourself, make sure you are protected, don’t let anyone break your spirit and be yourself’.

“So much of the time we model ourselves and our identities on what we see, and actually finding who you are and what you want to say and what your voice is, is one of the hardest things to do, but one of the most important things to do.”

On Weinstein, she added: “I’ve been working now for well over two decades for UN Women to eradicate violence against women, this is very important right now – we cannot tolerate this behaviour.”

The film producer denies any allegations of non-consensual sex as he faces a litany of rape, harassment and assault accusations from a number of women.

Quentin Tarantino – who shared a long friendship with Weinstein – was also reported to have commented on the allegations. According to actress Amber Tamblyn, the director said: “For the last week, I’ve been stunned and heartbroken about the revelations that have come to light about my friend for 25 years Harvey Weinstein.

“I need a few more days to process my pain, emotions, anger and memory and then I will speak publicly about it.”

Other industry figures to speak out over the growing allegations include Evan Rachel Wood as well as director Oliver Stone, who appeared to defend Weinstein.

The award-winning filmmaker has sought to clarify remarks he was reported to have made at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

Stone told international media he was a “believer that you wait until this thing gets to trial”, adding: “It’s not easy what he (Weinstein) is going through.”

Later he posted on Facebook: “I’ve been travelling for the last couple of days and wasn’t aware of all the women who came out to support the original story in the New York Times.

“After looking at what has been reported in many publications over the last couple of days, I’m appalled and commend the courage of the women who’ve stepped forward to report sexual abuse or rape.”

Stone added he would pull out of directing a prospective Guantanamo series “as long as the Weinstein Company is involved”.

Hanks hit out at Weinstein’s initial apology in which he claimed his conduct was a result of growing up in the 1960s and 70s.

The Forrest Gump actor told the New York Times: “Well, that’s a really good question, and isn’t it part and parcel to all of society somehow, that people in power get away with this?”

He added: “Look, I don’t want to rag on Harvey but so obviously something went down there. You can’t buy: ‘Oh, well, I grew up in the 60s and 70s and so therefore…’

“I did, too. So I think it’s like, well, what do you want from this position of power? I know all kinds of people that just love hitting on, or making the lives of underlings some degree of miserable, because they can.”

EU ministers agree national climate goals

EU environment ministers have agreed on national emissions-reduction targets and forest management rules in a push to show the bloc is delivering on its climate goals ahead of United Nations talks next month to fight global warming.

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The European Union, the world’s third-largest emitter and a key broker of the 2015 Paris climate pact to curb greenhouse gases, sees adopting the legislation as key to its credibility and influence on how the global climate rules are written.

The EU’s role in complying on behalf of the world’s developed countries has a higher profile since the administration of President Donald Trump announced this year that the US will withdraw from the Paris accord.

The EU assigns member nations targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions ranging from zero to 40 per cent to achieve the bloc’s overall goal of at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Ministers voiced hope agreement on the politically sensitive targets, which will require an economic shift to low-carbon technology in the transport, farming, waste and building sectors, can help unlock tough talks on other climate files.

Hours of talks over reforms to the EU emissions trading system, a cap-and-trade permit system to regulate industry pollution, ended without an agreement early on Friday.

However, ministers of the 28-nation bloc agreed on draft rules on how to manage forests, whose role as carbon sinks is promoted by the Paris pact among 195 nations, despite forest-rich nations Finland, Poland and Croatia contesting the proposed compromise.

“This shows that the EU takes leadership and does something rather than just talk,” Denmark’s Minister of Energy, Utilities and Climate, Lars Christian Lilleholt, told Reuters.

Environmental campaigners said the accord, which still needs to be negotiated with the European parliament, did not go far enough to curb the worst effects of rising temperatures, blamed for causing more floods, heat waves and rising sea levels.

They criticised measures aimed at helping lower-income EU countries meet their obligations.

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Iran, EU and Russia defend nuclear deal

Iran, US allies in Europe and Russia have defended the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran and said they would stick by it, after US President Donald Trump threatened to terminate the agreement.

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Trump said in a Washington speech that he would not certify that Iran is complying with its agreement with six world powers and the European Union, despite a determination by the UN’s nuclear watchdog that Tehran is meeting the deal’s terms.

The Republican president threw the issue to the US Congress, which has 60 days to decide whether to reinstate US sanctions. He warned that if “we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran will remain committed to the multinational deal as long as it serves the country’s national interests.

Trump’s decision to decertify the deal will isolate the United States, as other signatories of the accord remained committed to it, Rouhani said in a live television address. The deal was not renegotiable, he said.

The agreement, negotiated by Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, eased sanctions on Tehran in returns for strict limits on its nuclear program.

Trump’s stance put him at odds with key US allies, including Britain, France and Germany who, along with Russia and China, negotiated the deal with Iran alongside the European Union.

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Washington could not unilaterally cancel the agreement.

“We cannot afford as the international community to dismantle a nuclear agreement that is working,” said Mogherini, who chaired the final stages of the landmark talks. “This deal is not a bilateral agreement.

“The international community, and the European Union with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is, and will continue to be, in place,” Mogherini told reporters in Brussels.

The leaders of Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement warning the United States against taking decisions that could harm the nuclear deal such as re-imposing sanctions.

The three leaders also said they shared US concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional destabilising activities and were ready to work with Washington to address those concerns.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he had spoken with Rouhani by telephone and assured him of France’s commitment to the deal, but that Tehran must strictly comply with it.

Russia’s foreign ministry said there was no place in international diplomacy for threatening and aggressive rhetoric, and said such methods were doomed to fail, in a statement issued after Trump’s speech.

The ministry said Trump’s decision to de-certify the deal would not have a direct impact on implementation of the agreement but that it ran counter to its spirit.

The head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was complying with the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime”.

“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,” Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA said in a statement.

Trump received support from Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, all of which oppose what they say are Iran’s expansionary moves in the Middle East.

“President Trump has just created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement.

Call for stricter access to Medicare cards

Australians could be handed greater control over who can access their Medicare card details amid fears the information can be too easily obtained.

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An independent report, released on Saturday, has suggested tighter security following a review ordered by the federal government in July after a small batch of card numbers were sold on the dark web.

It noted that while there had been no risk to patients’ health records as a result of the sale, Medicare card numbers are susceptible to theft for identity fraud and other “illicit activities”.

Illegally obtained Medicare details can also be used to fraudulently make claims and access taxpayer-funded health services.

The report has recommended that doctors and other health professionals be required to get consent from patients – either in writing or verbally – before accessing their Medicare numbers.

“In addition to providing patients with more control, this would also increase consumer awareness about how their Medicare information is used and shared,” it said.

The federal government is also being urged to phase out the ability to access Medicare numbers over the phone.

Roughly 580,000 calls are made to the Department of Human Services requesting card access, but security checks aren’t as robust as the online portal.

“The information required in the provider security check to access a Medicare card number could be accessible by someone other than the provider,” the report found.

While the review panel didn’t see any evidence of fraudulent requests for Medicare numbers over the phone, it “remains concerned about the potential risks presented by the channels”.

It recommends that, while phasing it out, conditions for the release or confirmation of card information by phone should be strengthened with additional security questions to whoever is calling in the request.

The panel – led by Peter Shergold, former secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – stopped short of calling for mandatory identity checks whenever someone uses their Medicare card, but suggested health professionals be required to take “reasonable steps” to confirm a patient’s identity when they are first treated.

It has also recommended that Australians be able to request an audit log of people who have sought access to their card number through the online portal, and that batch requests for numbers over the web be limited to 50 numbers at a time day – a dramatic reduction in the existing 500 record limit.

Last financial year, about 10.2 million searches for Medicare card numbers were made via the online service.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the report and promised the government will respond by the end of the year.

Trump strikes blow at Iran nuclear deal

President Donald Trump has struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, defying both US allies and adversaries by refusing to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord even though international inspectors say it is.

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Warning that he might ultimately terminate the agreement, Trump’s move was a major change in US foreign policy at a time when his administration is also in a crisis with North Korea over that country’s nuclear ambitions.

It was the second time in two days that Trump took aim at the legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama after signing an executive order on Thursday to weaken the Democratic former president’s signature healthcare reform.

Hailed by Obama as key to stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb, the deal was also signed by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union.

But Trump says it was too lenient on Tehran and effectively left the fate of the deal up to the US Congress, which might try to modify it or bring back sanctions previously imposed on Iran.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said on Friday.

European allies have warned of a split with Washington over the nuclear agreement and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done undermines US credibility abroad.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran was committed to the deal and accused Trump of making baseless accusations.

“The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure,” he said. “Iran and the deal are stronger than ever.”

The chief of the UN atomic watchdog reiterated that Iran was under the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime” and that Tehran is complying with the deal.

Under US law, the president must certify every 90 days to Congress that Iran is complying with the deal, which Trump had reluctantly done twice.

Two administration officials privy to the Iran policy debate said Trump this time ultimately ignored the opinions of his secretary of defence, secretary of state, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his chief of staff and his national security advisor.

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Washington could not unilaterally cancel the accord.

“We cannot afford as the international community to dismantle a nuclear agreement that is working,” said Mogherini, who chaired the final stages of the landmark talks. “This deal is not a bilateral agreement.

The US Congress will now have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.

If Congress reimposes the sanctions, the United States would in effect be in violation of the terms of the nuclear deal and it would likely fall apart. If lawmakers do nothing, the deal remains in place.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker was working on amending a law on Iran to include “trigger points” that if crossed by Tehran would automatically reimpose US sanctions.

A source familiar with the issue said the triggers include reimposing US sanctions if Tehran were deemed to be less than a year away from developing a nuclear weapon.

The trigger points are also expected to address tougher nuclear inspections, Iran’s ballistic missile program and eliminate the deal’s “sunset clauses” under which some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over time.

Trump warned that if “we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated”.

He singled out Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for sanctions and delivered a blistering critique of Tehran, which he accused of destabilising actions in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Potential Ashes bolter Carey wants runs

The glovework of potential Ashes bolter Alex Carey has already turned heads that matter, now he is desperate to take the next step in a burgeoning career.

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Australia’s XI for the first Ashes Test is far from settled, with public and private debate raging over two positions.

Former Test wicketkeeper Peter Nevill is considered the greatest threat to Matthew Wade.

But Carey, picked ahead of Nevill for this year’s aborted Australia A tour, is also in the discussion.

The South Australian has played 18 first-class games, only returning to cricket after unsuccessfully chasing his AFL dream with Greater Western Sydney.

But this selection panel has often looked to the future earlier than the public is accustomed to, exemplified by youngsters Matt Renshaw and Hilton Cartwright making their Test debuts last summer.

“It’s nice to be spoken about. You like to sit back and dream,” Carey told AAP.

“You always have to think about it. It’s front of mind, (SA coach) Jamie Siddons is one who really pushes us to strive for that baggy green … but I’m not the only one striving.”

What makes Carey, who broke the all-time Sheffield Shield record for most dismissals by a gloveman in a season with 59 in 2016-17, stand out is his consistency behind the stumps.

The 26-year-old’s athleticism has also earned the praise of many good judges, including Ian Healy.

However the left-hander, entrusted to open during the ongoing one-day tournament, is still searching for his maiden ton for SA.

Carey scored more than 500 runs last Shield season but is acutely aware, having idolised Adam Gilchrist as a child, that bigger scores will bolster his baggy-green bid.

“I want to get some 50s and convert,” he said.

“It’s inspiring (how Gilchrist revolutionised the demands on a keeper) … and whenever he made 50, he converted.”

If blooded against England in the showpiece series starting November 23 at the Gabba, Carey will be reunited with national fielding coach Brad Haddin.

Carey picked the brain of Haddin, then helping coach Australia A, during a week-long training camp that coincided with the pay dispute.

“I was obviously disappointed the trip didn’t go ahead,” he said.

“But the few sessions I had with Hadds were brilliant. We worked on conditioning and thought processes.

“Getting insights from one of the world’s best wicketkeepers was pretty cool. He keeps it simple, which I like.”

Spain’s warning on economic growth as Catalan crisis persists

The International Monetary Fund and the Spanish government warned Friday the country’s economic growth could be dealt a blow if Catalonia’s drive to break away persists, just as the Catalan leader’s separatist allies pressed him to go ahead with independence.

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The central government has given Carles Puigdemont until next Thursday to abandon Catalonia’s push for secession, failing which it may trigger unprecedented constitutional steps that could see Madrid take control of the semi-autonomous region.

Puigdemont’s separatist allies pressed him Friday to defy Madrid and declare independence.

But with dozens of companies having already moved their legal headquarters from Catalonia, concerns are rising that growth in the region could take a hit, and by extension that of Spain as a whole.

In Washington, IMF Europe Director Poul Thomsen said: “If there was prolonged uncertainty, that could weigh on growth, and obviously we want to avoid that.”

Spain’s deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria warned that if “there is no quick solution, we see ourselves having to lower economic forecasts for 2018”.

0:00 Spain issues Catalonia a deadline to clarify independence claim Share Spain issues Catalonia a deadline to clarify independence claim

‘Domino effect’

She accused Puigdemont of “seriously damaging Catalonia’s economic stability” as uncertainty over the fate of the region of 7.5 million people damages business confidence.

The eurozone’s fourth largest economy said in July it expected growth of 2.6 percent next year.

Spain’s Association of Registrars said Friday that 540 firms had sought to relocate their legal addresses from Catalonia from October 2-11. 

Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s said the region’s economy risked sliding into recession if the crisis dragged on.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday he was against Catalan independence because it could trigger a separatist domino effect in the EU.

“I wouldn’t like to have a European Union which consists of 98 states in 15 years’ time,” he said during a speech in Luxembourg. “It’s already relatively difficult at 28, no easier at 27 (after Britain leaves), but at 98, that seems impossible.”

The Mobile World Congress, the phone industry’s largest annual trade fair held every year in Barcelona, said it would hold its 2018 in February as planned, after media reports suggested it was considering delaying.

A spokeswoman told AFP “we are continuing to monitor developments in Spain and Catalonia and assess any potential impact.”

Meanwhile Spain’s CEOE business lobby group said this week that Catalonia was already “seriously affected” by the crisis.

Ricardo Mur, vice-president of the Aragon Business Confederation said the region, which borders Catalonia, had seen a surge in activity.

“Industrial estates are almost full due to the transfer of Catalan businesses,” he told AFP.

0:00 Catalonia’s separatist push has ended Share Catalonia’s separatist push has ended

Pressure to break away

But Puigdemont is also under pressure from his separatist allies who feel that any decision to back down would infuriate hundreds of thousands of Catalans who voted to split from Spain in a banned referendum.

On Friday, the far-left CUP party, an ally of his coalition government, said in an open letter that “only by proclaiming a republic will we be able to respect what the majority expressed in the polls.”

The referendum took place on October 1 despite a court ban that ruled it unconstitutional, and regional authorities say 90 percent chose to split from Spain in a vote marred by police violence.

Turnout was 43 percent, they say, but the figures are impossible to verify as the referendum was not held according to official electoral standards.

Adding to pressure, Catalonia is deeply divided over independence, and those who want to stay in Spain are increasingly making their voices heard, having staged two mass rallies in just five days.

Puigdemont had pledged to declare independence if the “yes” vote won, but on Tuesday he gave an ambiguous statement.

Saying he accepted a mandate for “Catalonia to become an independent state,” he immediately suspended the declaration, calling for more time for talks with Madrid.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy retorted that Puigdemont had until next Monday to clarify whether or not he would press ahead with secession and then until next Thursday to reconsider, otherwise Madrid would act. He rejected any form of mediation.

Apart from the CUP’s open letter, the Catalan National Assembly, an influential pro-independence association whose followers are ready to take to the streets, also called on him to lift his suspension of the independence declaration.

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Suu Kyi outlines plan to end Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state

Aung San Suu Kyi has set out plans for a new humanitarian project to enable Myanmar’s Rakhine State to emerge as a peaceful and developed region, in a bid to fix the country’s refugee crisis.

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Suu Kyi said in a televised address on Thursday evening that she would invite aid organisations, business leaders and civil society to take part in the initiative, which aims to defuse the violence that has caused 536,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee from Rakhine State to Bangladesh in the past two months.

“What she’s interested in is how to fix this, how to … give the civilian government, as opposed to the military, the power to deliver aid, reconciliation and rebuilding,” said a close adviser, who briefed reporters, by telephone, on condition of anonymity.

“That’s the task she has set herself.”

In her speech, Suu Kyi said although the government may not be strong, she hoped the strength and generosity of the people would turn the initiative, to be launched on Sunday, into a “milestone” in Myanmar’s history.

Representatives of Suu Kyi in Myanmar could not be reached to confirm the adviser’s comments. But two leading Myanmar experts confirmed to Reuters that the adviser was close to her.

The United Nations has called the violence in Myanmar a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi has been widely criticised for failing to take action to stop it.

“She is appalled by what she has seen. She does care deeply about this. I know that does not always come across. But she really does,” Suu Kyi’s adviser told reporters.

But she had to tread carefully so as not to inflame things further, he said, saying Myanmar’s transition to democracy was in a “perilous position”.

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Future still uncertain for many at Holden

Many of the remaining workers at car maker Holden still face an uncertain future, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says.

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With less than a week to go before the last vehicles roll off the assembly line at the company’s Adelaide operations, Mr Weatherill has again taken aim at the federal government for “chasing” the car industry out of Australia.

“This was a dramatic mistake, it was a monumental mistake,” the premier told the Labor Party state convention on Saturday.

About 900 workers are still employed at Holden’s assembly plant but will finish up when it closes its doors on Friday.

But they leave with their heads held high with parent company General Motors recently heaping praise on its Australian subsidiary for the high quality of its products.

Mr Weatherill said it was galling to think the Holden would close at a time when those workers were building the best cars they had ever produced.

“It will be a worrying time for many of them,” he said.

“Some of them are going to take some time off, some are going to retrain, some are actually going to retire,” he told reporters.

“There are lots of different choices that people are making but in all of those choices, we’re working alongside them every step of the way.”

“This is a car plant that should never have been shut. It’s just a crying shame.”

But, in a recent media briefing, Holden spokesman Sean Poppitt said despite the high quality of the locally-built cars, vehicle manufacturing in Australia was simply not viable.

“We’ve reached that conclusion, Toyota reached that conclusion, Ford reached that conclusion, Mitsubishi reached that conclusion,” he said.

“Every single car manufacturer that’s ever set up here in Australia, unfortunately, over many, many decades have reached that conclusion.”

Nevertheless, Mr Poppitt said Holden would continue to have a significant presence in Australia with about 1000 people employment throughout its corporate operations and up to 6000 more through its dealer network.

He said the majority of production workers who had already left the company, and those who would finish on Friday, had also secured either new jobs or had made constructive plans for their future.

Labor pledges new fund for manufacturing

Federal Labor has promised to invest $1 billion in a new fund to support innovative manufacturing if elected to government.

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The pledge, made by party leader Bill Shorten on Saturday, has been welcomed by industry but branded nothing more than a “union slush fund” by the coalition.

Mr Shorten told the South Australian Labor state conference in Adelaide the Australian Manufacturing Future Fund will help local manufacturers grow, innovate, diversify and develop new opportunities.

“We will make sure that you get access to the low-cost finance which gets you ahead of the pack,” Mr Shorten said.

“Australian business and Australian workers are as good – if not better – than anyone in the world. The slogan I want to hear in the future is ‘Made in Australia’.”

It will be modelled on Labor’s successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which has made investment commitments of $4.3 billion in projects with a total value of $11 billion in its first four years.

Research has identified a finance gap for innovative small and medium-sized businesses in the manufacturing sector.

Examples of businesses that could benefit include auto component manufacturers seeking to re-tool or diversify into other industries, food manufacturers investing in new equipment to package new products for Asian export markets and metal fabricators expanding into pre-fabricated housing.

The automotive industry has been especially hard hit by the closure of Holden, Ford and Toyota.

The fund would apply commercial rigour when making investments and offer financing including equity, concessional loans and loan guarantees.

It could partner with the CEFC to invest in energy efficient projects and equipment to reduce a company’s energy bills, or the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to access new export markets with new products.

The Australian Industry Group welcomed the announcement and urged all sides of politics to embrace such a policy approach.

Chief executive Innes Willox said there have long been concerns that Australia’s financial system under-caters for innovative and seemingly higher-risk investments by small and medium-sized businesses.

“The measures announced today are an important recognition of the potential for the creation of exciting and enduring jobs, new export opportunities and new domestic business capabilities in Australian manufacturing,” he said in a statement.

But Michael Sukkar, assistant minister to the treasurer, claims the money won’t be used to help small business, but for Mr Shorten to “reward his union mates”.

“You don’t help any manufacturer, particularly small manufacturers who are downstream … by strangling them with higher taxes, less tax concessions and now this union slush fund,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“It will basically say ‘unless the union supports you, you’re not going to see a dollar out of this’.”