‘Captain’s call’: Lib MP lashes Malcolm Turnbull and ministers for opposing bank inquiry

Liberal MP Warren Entsch has criticised his government for pre-empting a parliamentary enquiry on the banks. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Pressure builds on Malcolm Turnbull as three more Nationals MPs speak out

Veteran Liberal MP Warren Entsch has lashed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and senior frontbenchers for making a “captain’s call” to oppose a royal commission into the banking sector.

Mr Entsch, one of five government MPs who supports a royal commission into the banking and finance sector, told Fairfax Media on Monday that he was “worried about senior colleagues ruling this out when we have an inquiry under way”.

“How can senior members of the government make a captain’s call and pre-empt this [parliamentary] inquiry?”

And Liberal MP Bert Van Manen, a member of the committee holding that inquiry, due to report May 20, told Fairfax Media the committee should be allowed to run its course and that the recommendation of a royal commission should not be pre-emptively ruled out.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott was, in part, brought undone by a slew of so-called “captain’s calls”, including the decision to knight Prince Philip.

The term – which the Macquarie Dictionary named its word of the year – became a politically explosive term in the dying days of the Abbott government and synonymous with the former prime minister’s lack of consultation with backbench colleagues.

When he took the nation’s top political job, Mr Turnbull promised no more captain’s calls and the restoration of cabinet government.

Labor announced on Friday it would hold a $53 million, two year royal commission if it wins the election later this year.

Mr Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison, Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton are among the members of the Coalition front bench who have subsequently dismissed the idea as a “thought bubble”, a political stunt and a “distraction” while highlighting that Labor has previously opposed such a move.

Fairfax Media revealed on Sunday that government MPs George Christensen, former minister Luke Hartsuyker and Ken O’Dowd all supported, or were open to such a probe. They join Mr Entsch and Senator John Williams.

Mr Entsch said that he had referred victims of malfeasance to the committee examining corporations and financial services and that there was “was nothing in the inquiry terms of reference that excluded a royal commission”.

“It’s all very well to say banks have learned from their mistakes and they will be nicer moving forward. But what about the sins of the past?”

“To stand up and pre-empt the findings of a Senate inquiry, when I have been referring victims to this with an expectation of them being heard, they are shattered that senior members of the government have made this captain’s call.”

A fired-up Mr Entsch vowed to keep fighting for a royal commission.

Mr Van Manen said Labor was grand-standing and engaged in political point scoring by reversing its position and backing the probe after previously voting against it.

“We should let the inquiry run its course, there is an awful lot of detail and work being done. That’s what should happen, then let’s go from them there,” he said.

“You can’t rule it [a royal commission] out.”

Mr Morrison defended the major banks on Monday, declaring that “when you hear Bill Shorten come on the eve of an election and call for a royal commission in this area, you know he’s playing politics”.

“You know he is being opportunistic and he’s being opportunistic with something which goes to the heart of the performance of our economy. Of course there are issues that need to be addressed in the banking and financial industry,” he said.

The push for a royal commission follows a string of financial scandals in the past few years, including the CBA financial planning scandal, bank bill swap rate rigging and the CommInsure life insurance scandal, which saw sick and dying people denied claims. Many of these stories were revealed by Fairfax Media.

Last week, the corporate regulator ASIC this week launched action against Westpac Bank over alleged rigging of the bank bill swap rate, and launched an action against the ANZ Banking Group for similar behaviour, while the Commonwealth Bank has been caught up in allegations of unethical behaviour by its insurance arm.

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Bionic eyes set to switch from fantasy to blinking reality

Samsung are attempting to patent a contact lens with a built in camera.Aficionados of the 1970s-era television series The Six Million Dollar Man, rejoice: contact lenses are coming that could make all your bionic-eye dreams come true.
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A patent application published last week shows Korean electronics giant Samsung is working on a contact lens with a tiny built-in camera.

The lens, which would be controlled by blinking, includes an antenna that will allow the lenses to speak to your phone.

The patent follows the disclosure last year that a global team of academics, funded by the US defence industry, had developed contact lenses that could give the wearer telescopic vision.

WIth that device you would soon be able to zoom in on and record whatever is in front of your eye, without anyone knowing.

The Samsung patent application also suggests wearers of the lens would be able to project images directly onto the lens, potentially doing away with the awkwardness that augmented reality applications have sometimes struggled with on platforms such as  Google Glass.

The application is dated to 2014, about the same time Samsung moved to trademark the name Gear Blink, which has set technology bloggers to wondering if the new product and name aren’t tied to the same project.

Samsung uses the name Gear with its line of wearable technology.

The lens as described in the patent would create a product eerily similar to one imagined in one episode of the British cult TV series Black Mirror, in which the ability to record ones’ entire life and replay it on a screen inside the eye leads to destructive and dystopian outcomes.

Bernard Robertson-Dunn, chair of the health committee of the Australian Privacy Foundation, said such technologies were rife with risk and would need to “be watched very carefully”.

He said Google Glass’s ability to record and replay had raised privacy concerns around the world.

If anything, contact lenses would pose even greater threats because footage could be recorded in a way that was completely hidden.

“To record things without people’s knowledge is bordering on pure surveillance and invasion of privacy,” he said.

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Punishment for Australians won’t be ‘extreme’ in 60 Minutes child snatch case: Lebanese police source

Sally Faulkner travelled to Lebanon to recover her two children, Lahala and Noah, from their father. Photo: Facebook Tara Brown and the 60 Minutes crew were detained in Lebanon. Photo: Channel Nine
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Seven expected to be charged: Lebanese mediaDetained mother has baby in AustraliaAnalysis: What was 60 Minutes doing? 

The five Australians including a 60 Minutes crew being held in Beirut over a botched child recovery operation are unlikely to receive “extreme” punishment, a police source in Lebanon has said.

The source said that authorities in the country would likely be sympathetic to Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner’s desperation, but stressed it still amounted to kidnapping under Lebanese law.

The source also revealed that a Romanian national who was part of the operation has evaded capture by Lebanese police and remains on the run.

A decision on whether charges will be laid over the snatching of two children – the subjects of a custody battle between Ms Faulkner and her Lebanese former partner – off the streets of Beirut last week is expected on Monday.

Local media have reported that charges are expected to be laid against seven of the nine people originally detained, who reportedly include two Britons and two Lebanese along with the four Channel Nine journalists and Ms Faulkner.

The police source said that the plotters behind the snatching had behaved “as though there’s no rule of law in Lebanon”.

“Maybe they had good intentions but you have to look at their actions,” he said.

The children, Lahala, 6, and Noah, 4, were snatched off the street last Wednesday by several men. Ms Faulkner was working with the British-based firm Child Abduction Recovery International. Lebanese authorities reportedly have some evidence that 60 Minutes paid the $115,000 fee to the firm.

The botched operation follows Ms Faulkner’s separation from the children’s Lebanese father Ali Elamine, who took Lahala and Noah to Lebanon and, according to Ms Faulkner, refused to let them return to Australia.

“What they did in the Lebanese law is called kidnapping. They had the intention to save the kids but they are at the same time kidnapping them,” the police source.

Equally there would be an understanding that Ms Faulkner was acting as a mother in what she saw as the interests of her children, the source said.

“Looking at it from an emotional perspective, you need to see how she was thinking.”

The 60 Minutes crew, who accompanied Ms Faulkner, clearly “acted out of excitement”.

“There’s a difference between kidnapping for ransom or kidnapping to return kids to their mother. So in this case their judgment will be minimal. It’s not going to be extreme,” the source said.

“I don’t think they’ll stay (in detention) for too long. I think they’ll be released soon.”

The source added that “there’s one Romanian who hasn’t been found yet – he fled”.

It was not clear whether he was still in Lebanon or had escaped the country.

The snatching happened on the streets of southern Beirut, which is controlled by Shiite political factions.

Complicating the issue, Mr Elamine’s family is reportedly politically connected. His mother, Ibtisam Berri, who was knocked aside on the street during the snatching at a school bus stop, is the cousin of Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, according to reports.

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A wave of imagination followed Japan’s meltdown

Tamaki Tokita is an academic who has done a study of Japanese and international literature written in response to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Photo: Peter Rae Some of the many books of fiction written in response to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Photo: Peter Rae
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Ryoichi Wago, a poet and high school teacher in Fukushima, was one of the first writers to respond to the triple disaster – earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown – that hit north-eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, killing at least 16,000 people.

After a few days in an evacuation camp, Wago went home and began to record his poetic impressions on Twitter: “Radiation is falling. It is a quiet night.” “The kitchen. I cleaned up the broken plates. As I put them in a box one by one, I felt miserable. For myself, for the kitchen, for the world.” His early tweets were published as Pebbles of Poetry in a Japanese journal, and he continues to tweet to 26,000 followers.

Five years later, Tamaki Tokita, an academic at the University of Sydney, is surprised by the wave of literature inspired by 3/11.

In her PhD thesis, just completed, she notes about 40 books already published in Japan, almost 30 of them novels, as well as short stories, poetry and films.

“People expect the early responses to be hasty and not as well thought out as later ones, but I found a lot of fiction that was quite imaginative.”

The few books that followed devastating earthquakes in 1923 and 1995 were non-fiction, the writers intent on interviewing victims and recording first-hand experience.

“That role is now taken by ordinary people who can post their experiences on social media,” Tokita says. “What was expected from authors was something more imaginative that would help people recover emotionally.”

Among the first published – in June 2011 – was Kamisama (God) by Hiromi Kawakami, a reworking of her 1994 story about a young woman on a picnic with a bear, now set in a post-disaster world affected by radiation.

Explaining her fable, Kawakami spoke of her “quiet anger” at the country she and her fellow Japanese had built, which had upset the “god of uranium” in the Shinto tradition of divine retribution.

While no 3/11 monster equivalent to Japan’s post-war Godzilla has reared up, there is a predictable taste for dystopian fiction showing a future changed by war, nuclear disaster, closed borders and totalitarian government.

“There has been a real conflict between, on one side, promoting the idea of people united and strong in the face of disaster, and on the other hand, people feeling suppressed from criticism of the authorities and expressing anti-nuclear sentiment,” Tokita says.

In his 2011 novel, A Nuclear Reactor in Love, Takahashi Genichiro imagines men making a porn video to raise money for victims of the disaster.

“He was also talking about freedom of speech, writing about sex as something hidden in Japanese society like nuclear power,” Tokita says. Proving his point, he was forbidden to use the book’s title in a university lecture.

The best of these books can be read without any knowledge of the events that inspired them, Tokita says, and most authors do not take an explicit pro- or anti-nuclear position.

“They just want to encourage people to talk and debate, which is new for Japan.”

Most of the authors were writing in Tokyo, she says, treating 3/11 as a national event and yet with the safety of distance to reimagine its outcome.

Tokita was in Auckland with her mother, finishing her undergraduate degree, when they heard about the disaster on the news. They couldn’t get through to family in Tokyo, where Tokita’s grandmother was forced out of her home after the water pipes broke.

“It caused her big stress and shock, and she died soon after,” Tokita says.

Famous Japanese writers, such as Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe and Haruki Murakami, have given their views to the media though not in books. But ripples of reaction have spread into comics, children’s books, and around the world.

Ruth Ozeki, a well-known Canadian-American novelist and Zen Buddhist priest, is among several English-language writers of Japanese parentage who have written on 3/11. A Tale for the Time Being, her Booker-shortlisted 2013 fable, follows the inquiries of a Canadian writer who finds a Japanese schoolgirl’s diary washed up after the tsunami.

“The English-language response is to want to know the Japanese way of thinking and how they manage to cope and keep rebuilding after all the disasters they’ve had,” Tokita says.

Tamaki Tokita will give a free talk, 3/11 in Literature and Film, at the Japan Foundation in Sydney on April 15 at 6.30pm.   

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Nick Cummins suffers Rio setback

Injured: Nick Cummins Olympic dream is in doubt after an ankle injury has ruled him out for a month. Photo: Cameron SpencerNick Cummins is on his way home to Australia with his Olympic dream up in the air after suffering an ankle injury at the Hong Kong Sevens that has ruled him out of action for up to month.
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Australian sevens coach Andy Friend confirmed Cummins would return to Australia to begin rehab on his ankle after hurting it during his first sevens appearance in six years on the weekend.

Cummins was a late call up for the Hong Kong event after Henry Hutchison pulled out of the tournament due to a foot problem and was set to feature at the Singapore Sevens event this weekend.

It means Cummins will, at best, have just two tournaments – the Paris and London legs in May – to show Friend why he should be included in Australia’s Olympic squad that will be picked in early July.

“He needs to get home and checked. The smartest thing is to get him home and get him an opportunity to get some rehab,” said Friend from Hong Kong. “Whilst we sat him on the bench, in all seriousness it was only going to be if we had nothing else. It was a pretty serious ankle injury. He certainly wouldn’t have been at 100 per cent if he got out on the field. It was definitely giving him some grief.”  Good to have my sis and the old boy in Honkers. #Aussie7spic.twitter南京夜网/C5mgDJjJLK— Nick Cummins (@nckcmmns) April 10, 2016

Friend said Cummins hurt himself on either his first or second carry of the tournament and was visibly below his best.

“When Nick Cummins makes a line break, Nick Cummins normally scores from a line break … we realised there was something wrong,” Friend said. “I thought he showed great character and fight to continue playing on with that, but it was only afterwards that he realised how serious it was.”

Lewis Holland is also expected to miss a month of football after hurting his foot.

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