Sex offenders to have wings clipped

The federal government has flagged tougher sentences for Australian child sex offenders as it moves to ban thousands of them from travelling overseas.

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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Wednesday introduced to parliament draft laws to restrict the movement of about 20,000 registered offenders.

The legislation creates a new offence for reportable offenders to travel or attempt to travel overseas without permission.

It also gives the minister the power to deny them a passport when requested.

More than 770 Australian child sex offenders went abroad in 2016 – half of whom were deemed “medium to high risk” by police.

A third of them violated an obligation to tell police of their intended travel.

“These offenders have a high propensity to re-offend in countries where they are not monitored and where child sexual exploitation is rampant,” Ms Bishop said.

“These laws will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children from child sex tourism.”

Existing measures were ineffective and the process resource-intensive, she told MPs, but the new bill addresses those deficiencies.

“These tough new measures send a strong message to child sex offenders that they cannot use overseas travel to sexually exploit and abuse children,” she said.

Any decision by the foreign minister to cancel or refuse to issue a passport to an offender cannot be appealed by a review board under the proposal.

Ms Bishop flagged further legislation to criminalise “emerging forms of child sexual exploitation” and strengthen the sentencing and management of Commonwealth child sex offenders.

She hopes the bills will be introduced to parliament in the Spring sitting.

“Such abhorrent crimes will not be tolerated.”

Labor said it was prepared to work constructively with the government on the issue but was waiting to see more details.

“We all want to ensure what is best for Australian children and indeed children from overseas as well,” Senator Anthony Chisolm told reporters in Canberra.

Macron says ‘door always open’ for UK to stay in EU

The meeting in Paris followed the leaders’ remarkably different political fortunes in the past week, which saw Macron’s party headed for a massive parliamentary majority, while May lost her slim advantage in the House of Commons.

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“Of course the door is always open as long as the negotiations on Brexit have not finished,” Macron said in a press conference.

But he stressed that the British people had taken the sovereign decision to leave the 28-member bloc in their referendum a year ago, adding that the beginning of talks would be a milestone.

“Once it (the Brexit process) has started we need to be collectively clear that it’s more difficult to reverse course,” he said at the Elysee palace.

May stressed that she would stick to her timetable of starting Brexit discussions next week in Brussels, saying the talks were “on course”, despite her domestic difficulties.

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Her Conservative party lost its majority in a bungled snap election last week which some observers suggested might lead May to abandon her plans for a so-called “hard Brexit”.

But she countered: “There’s a unity of purpose among people in the UK. It’s a unity of purpose having voted to leave the EU that their government gets on with that and makes a success of it.” 

Crackdown on online extremism

 After their talks, May and Macron watched a football friendly between England and France where a minute’s silence was held before kick-off to remember the victims of recent terror attacks in Manchester and London.

The order of the national anthems was reversed, leading thousands of French fans to put aside centuries of rivalry, war and their own history of regicide in a moment of cross-Channel solidarity.

“God Save The Queen” they thundered before the match began. 

The poignant moment served to underline May and Macron’s main message, namely that France and Britain will continue to work together despite Brexit. However there was no comfort for May on the pitch, with France running out 3-2 winners.

The French and British leaders also announced a joint action plan to crack down on extremism and terror propaganda online, accusing internet companies and social media networks of doing too little.

The measures aim “to ensure the internet cannot be used as a safe space for criminals and terrorists and it cannot be used to host the radicalising material that leads to so much harm,” May said.

Priorities include looking into encrypted communication platforms used by extremists to evade security forces and new laws to impose penalties on internet companies which fail to remove offensive content.

Facebook, Twitter and other social networks had long argued that they were unable to monitor content posted online by their users, but have grown increasingly sensitive to criticism. 

Germany lawmakers recently introduced legislation requiring internet companies to remove content flagged as hate speech within 24 hours.

Macron vs May 

Before May arrived to meet Macron, many commentators had underlined their contrasting fortunes. He is a 39-year-old centrist seemingly clearing all obstacles from his path after standing in and winning his first-ever election this spring.

Last Sunday, his new Republic On The Move party won the first round of parliamentary elections and is on course for control.

She is a 60-year-old rightwing veteran now fighting to keep her job following the loss of the Conservative party’s majority.

“Everyone assumes that she’s a zombie,” Francois Heisbourg, a former French diplomat and chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, told AFP.

He also repeated the conclusion of May’s former cabinet colleague George Osborne, now the editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper, who called her a “dead woman walking”.

Macron’s comments on leaving the “door open” are likely to encourage Britain’s minority europhiles who still dream of keeping Britain inside the European Union.

But the reversal of the historic Brexit decision last June would probably require another referendum. 

Macron’s comments were echoed on Tuesday by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

“If they wanted to change their decision, of course they would find open doors, but I think it’s not very likely,” Schaeuble told Bloomberg Television.

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Israel returns envoy to NZ, ends rift

Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand is returning to his post, ending a six-month rift in relations over a United Nations resolution against Israeli settlements on occupied territory which Palestinians seek for a state.

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Israel recalled its ambassador in December after New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal sponsored a UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement activity .

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the two leaders spoke on the phone earlier this week, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michal Maayan said in a statement on Tuesday.

“I regret the damage done to Israel-New Zealand relations as a result of New Zealand proposing Resolution 2344 at the Security Council,” English wrote, according to the Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday.

The UN resolution passed in the 15-member Security Council because the United States, under the administration of former President Barack Obama, did not wield its veto power and instead abstained, breaking with its long-standing tradition of diplomatically shielding Israel at the international body.

Continued settlement building on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War and which Palestinians hope will eventually form part of an independent state has drawn criticism from the United Nations and most of the international community. Palestinians cite it as a major obstacle in now-stalled peace talks.

On June 4 Israel said it was returning its ambassador to Senegal, after recalling him over the UN Security Council resolution. Israel does not have diplomatic ties with Malaysia and Venezuela.

Maayan said the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand will return to Wellington in the next few days.

New US strategy demanded in Afghan war

US Senators have sharply criticised Pentagon leaders for failing to complete a new strategy for the 16-year war in Afghanistan, as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis acknowledged that “the enemy is surging right now”.

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Just a few hours later, President Donald Trump gave Mattis the authority to make decisions on US troop levels in Afghanistan, officials told The Associated Press.

The officials, who spoke on Tuesday on condition of anonymity said the move gives Mattis the ability to adjust troop levels more quickly.

At the Senate hearing earlier, Senator John McCain demanded that Mattis wrap up his plan for the war, threatening that, “unless we get a strategy from you, you’re going to get a strategy from us”.

He said he had expected the plan in the first 30 to 60 days of the new administration and snapped: “We want a strategy. I don’t think that’s a helluva lot to ask.”

Mattis, in response, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he will provide details on the new strategy for the war in mid-July.

The US has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan and earlier this year, the Pentagon was considering a request for roughly 3,000 more troops, mainly for training and advising. That decision, however, has been stalled by the broader administration review of Afghan policy and a push for NATO to contribute more troops.

Mattis left no doubt about the situation.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this as soon as possible.”

The Taliban’s resurgence has been coupled with a growing threat from Islamic State militants trying to establish a foothold in the country. The increased fight has led to a recent string of American deaths.