May tough on terror in France visit

British Prime Minister Theresa May says the UK and France will work together to press internet companies to reduce extremist material online.


May is meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday in her first foreign trip since a catastrophic election that weakened her leadership as Britain heads into tough talks on quitting the EU.

With Macron by her side, May said the two nations will do more to “stamp out this evil” of terrorism.

Major internet companies have failed to live up to prior commitments to do more to prevent extremists from finding a “safe space” online she said, and they will look at creating legal liability for internet companies if they fail to do so.

France and Britain have experienced several extremist attacks in the past few years.

Meanwhile, her French counterpart focused on the looming start date for Brexit talks.

The door is still open for the UK to remain in the European Union, Macron said, but stressed “the decision has been taken by the sovereign British people. I do respect that”.

Macron said he wants Brexit negotiations to start as soon as possible, following a working dinner with May.

British officials have suggested they won’t be able to formally start Brexit negotiations next week as planned.

Macron said he wants the negotiations to be led and coordinated by a European mission.

The two are on opposite fronts of the Brexit negotiations – Macron wants the remaining EU nations to stand tough and unite even more closely as Britain leaves.

The two leaders are to watch a France-England football match that will honour victims of the attacks with a moment of silence and the Oasis song Don’t Look Back in Anger played by the French Republican Guard.

Cholera crisis in war-torn Yemen

A cholera epidemic raging across Yemen is spiralling out of control, with around one child falling sick every minute.


Thousands of people could die in the coming months with up to 300,000 cases predicted, Save the Children aid agency said on Wednesday, adding that the infection rate had tripled in a fortnight.

Two years of civil war, near-famine conditions and a lack of access to clean water have exacerbated the spread of cholera – a diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours.

The country’s health system – already on its knees – is reeling with hospitals overwhelmed and quickly running out of medicines and intravenous fluids.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said more than 920 people had died from the disease since late April and more than 124,000 cases had been recorded – almost half of them children.

Grant Pritchard, Save the Children’s representative in Yemen, called for an increase in emergency funding to tackle the epidemic.

“It’s time for the world to take action before thousands of Yemeni boys and girls perish from an entirely preventable disease,” he said in a statement.

“Disease, starvation and war are causing a perfect storm of disaster for Yemen’s people. The region’s poorest country is on the verge of total collapse, and children are dying because they’re not able to access basic healthcare.”

Yemen’s civil war, pitting the Iran-allied Houthi group against a Western-backed Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, has left 19 million people needing humanitarian aid with many on the verge of famine.

More than two million children are acutely malnourished making them particularly vulnerable to cholera as their weakened systems are less able to fight off disease, Save the Children said.

Pritchard said restrictions on bringing aid and medical supplies into Yemen, including delays accessing Hodeidah port and the closure of Sanaa airport, were compounding difficulties in halting the epidemic.

Unaffordable transport is also making it hard for people to reach treatment.

Coalition MPs play down energy debate

Federal government MPs insist they’re sensibly working through discussions on changes to climate and energy policy, rejecting claims of a showdown behind closed doors.


A coalition party room meeting had to be extended into Tuesday evening to debate a report by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel which, amongst other recommendations for the nation’s electricity system, proposes a clean energy target.

Nationals MP Mark Coulton was angered to see reports based on leaks by “some pissant”.

“The reports … are simplistic and do not really relate the burden of responsibility that the coalition is carrying on their shoulders at the moment,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

Mr Coulton said it was wrong to portray MPs as either being “for Finkel, or against Finkel”.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the various views would be used to prepare a submission to cabinet, and then return to the party room.

“That’s how a proper democratic process should work,” he said.

Mr Joyce insisted the party hears the need for affordable power.

“We don’t have that titanic religious position the Labor Party has where you can’t mention the word coal.”

Junior minister Zed Seselja labelled the discussion a “very healthy debate” focusing on lower energy costs, energy security, and meeting emission reduction targets.

Liberal MP Jane Prentice raised the need to consider nuclear power.

Labor senator Anthony Chisholm said coalition MPs were was fighting among themselves while Australian families were missing out.

“The Abbott-Turnbull wars are back,” he told reporters.

Senator Chisholm pointed to the reported tense exchange between former prime minister Tony Abbott and Liberal frontbencher Craig Laundy after the meeting.

“It shows that this is not business as usual,” he said. “They are absolutely at war over the Finkel report and the tragedy is that the Australian people are the losers from it.”

Greens MP Adam Bandt said the government should cut loose Mr Abbott and fellow climate change deniers.

“I am sick of this parliament wasting so much time trying to devise a climate policy just aimed at keeping Tony Abbott happy,” he said.

Consumer confidence stalls on GDP result

Consumer confidence has stalled after three consecutive weeks of lifts, following the release of first quarter economic growth figures.


The ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Index was unchanged at 112.9 for the week to June 11, on the back of a 0.6 per cent rise the week before.

ANZ head of Australian Economics David Plank said the headline number masked significant changes in the sub-indices.

“Views towards economic conditions fell, whereas confidence in financial conditions rose quite sharply,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Households’ expectations of current economic conditions dropped a sharp 5.2 per cent, almost entirely unwinding gains made over the past three weeks.

Views towards future economic conditions continued to slide with a 2.6 per cent decline, following a 3.2 per cent fall the previous week.

It is now at its lowest level since September 2015.

But, despite the drop, households’ views towards financial conditions improved “quite dramatically” jumping 9.4 per cent to its highest level in 14 weeks, Mr Plank said.

“This is encouraging in terms of the outlook for household consumption,” he said.

“Although we expect that persistent weakness in wage growth and high levels of household debt will continue to weigh on spending.”

Views towards future conditions continue to improve, rising 1.5 per cent building on a 2.7 per cent lift the previous week.

Mr Plank said strength in business conditions along with moderate growth in ANZ Job ads suggest that employment growth should continue at a decent pace.

“This should broadly support confidence over the coming months.”

Data released on June 7 indicated that gross domestic product slowed to 0.3 per cent in the March quarter – taking annual growth to 1.7 per cent – against economists’ expectations of 0.1 per cent growth.

Farmers bank to remove middle man: Barnaby

The federal government is promising better support for Australian farmers under proposed new laws to streamline the rollout of loans and programs.


Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Wednesday introduced to parliament a bill to establish the Regional Investment Corporation, which will be based in the NSW regional city of Orange from 2018.

The corporation will administer the government’s $2 billion farm business concessional loans from July 2018, as well as the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility to give out loans to states and territories to build dams.

Mr Joyce said delivering programs and loans through the states – as it’s done now – was unwieldy and inconsistent.

The federal government has to negotiate separately with each state to change an existing arrangement or roll out a new program to farmers.

“Establishing the corporation will remove the middle man, allowing us to be more responsive in providing loans to farm businesses,” he told MPs.

“(It) will be a significant change in the way the Commonwealth works with farmers during times of need.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has promised to scrap the corporation if elected to government.

Labor has described it as a “Barnaby Joyce boondoggle”.

“You’ve only got to look at their record,” Queensland Labor senator Anthony Chisholm told reporters in Canberra.

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, created two years ago, had “not spent one cent or created one job other than for the executive”.

“We do know that one it gets close to an election they do try and pork barrel in their own seats,” he said.