Sydney, Apr 9 (AP/UNB) — Police say they will not charge an Australian teenager or a senator for a spat in which the boy cracked an egg on the politician's head and the man retaliated.
Victoria state police said in a statement Tuesday that after reviewing footage and interviewing both participants, they had issued an official caution only to 17-year-old Will Connolly. They said they concluded Sen. Fraser Anning had acted in self-defense when he twice struck the teen afterward.
Connolly gained fame as "Egg Boy" for egging Anning in Melbourne last month, after the senator controversially blamed the Christchurch mosque massacre on Muslim immigration.
Connolly said in an interview with Ten network's "The Project" that he was disgusted by the senator's comments but understood his actions were wrong.
"I understand what I did was not the right thing to do. I can understand why some people would react the way they did," he said. "There is no reason to physically attack anyone."
Police said they were still trying to identify a man who allegedly kicked Connolly while the teen was restrained on the floor by Anning's supporters.
Anning's colleagues in Australia's Parliament passed a censure motion against him last week for divisive comments "seeking to attribute blame to victims of a horrific crime and to vilify people on the basis of religion, which do not reflect the opinions of the Australian Senate or the Australian people."
Anning sits as an independent lawmaker and had dismissed the censure motion as an attack on free speech.
Last month he also defended striking Connolly, saying: "He got a slap across the face, which is what his mother should have given him long ago, because he's been misbehaving badly."
Australia, Apr 7 (AP/UNB) — May 18 appears the most likely date for Australia's next election at which the conservative government will seek a third three-year term.
Government sources have told media that Prime Minister Scott Morrison will not call an election on Sunday, which had been widely anticipated.
Sunday was the most likely choice if Morrison were to opt for the first of three dates available to him — May 11, May 18 and May 25. While many commentators had previously thought May 11 the most likely election date, May 18 would give the ruling coalition another week to use government money to advertise its policies and achievements.
Once an election is called, the coalition becomes a caretaker government and would need the approval of the center-left Labor Party opposition if taxpayers were to continue funding of what are described as government public information campaigns.
The government is trailing Labor in opinion polls.
Prime ministers traditionally call elections on a Sunday. The campaigns last at least 33 days and officially start a few days after the date is announced.
Monday is the last day that Morrison can call a May 11 election. But doing that would mean senators who had flown to the Australian capital Canberra for committee hearings starting Monday would be sent home that day.
The Australian Electoral Commission website says May 18 is the last possible date for the election because counting votes can take six weeks and must be finalized by June 30. The government would have to invest in more commission resources to cope with a tighter deadline created by a May 25 election.
But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the deputy leader of Morrison's conservative Liberal Party, said on Sunday that May 25 remained an option.
Morrison has maintained that he would call an election sometime after April 2 when Frydenberg announced the government's annual budget plan for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.
The government plans to deliver Australia's first surplus budget in 12 years. Labor also promises to balance the budget next year, but had yet to detail how.
Frydenberg said his government was using the time before an election is called to continue explaining its budget plan.
"There's no haste. There's no delay," Fydenberg told Australian Broadcasting Corp., referring to the election timing. He declined to say how money would be spent on government advertising this week, saying that figure would be made public at a later date.
"Money is being spent in accordance with approved processes and that's all transparent," he added.
Prime ministers usually keep their choices of election dates a tightly guarded secret in an effort to put the opposition at a tactical disadvantage.
Sydney, Apr 2 (AP/UNB) — The Australian lawmaker who had an egg cracked on his head by a teenage boy for his comments about last month's New Zealand mosque shootings faced a stinging attack on Tuesday in the first sitting of Australia's Parliament since the attacks.
Independent Sen. Fraser Anning was the target of widespread condemnation after the Christchurch shootings, in which 50 people died, when he blamed the massacre on immigration policies that he said allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand.
Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant has been charged with murder in the shootings.
After his comments, Anning faced more criticism for physically striking the teenager who cracked an egg on his head at a Melbourne public appearance — 17-year-old Will Connolly, who became known around the world as "Egg Boy."
Anning will face an official censure motion in Parliament on Wednesday for the comments, which caused more than a million people to sign an online petition calling for his removal from the national legislature.
But when Parliament resumed in Canberra on Tuesday following a monthlong break, one senior fellow lawmaker took the opportunity to lash out at Anning.
Echoing Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's comment that Anning should be charged for striking Connolly, acting government Senate leader Simon Birmingham attacked Anning for his lack of humanity after the shootings.
"The lack of compassion you have shown demonstrates, frankly, a basic lack of basic humanity," Birmingham told Anning, adding that his conduct "betrays the rights you have to freedom of speech."
Birmingham said Anning acted in a way that would potentially fuel more acts of terrorism and violence.
"You have failed the test of character I would expect of anybody who is elected to this place," he said.
Birmingham's outburst came after Anning arrived at Parliament saying he had "no remorse" over his comments. Anning then used the Senate's question time to bring up the egging incident. He quizzed the government about its response to the episode, asking whether it believed politically motivated violence was acceptable in some circumstances.
Birmingham accused Anning of drawing a comparison between his comments about the Christchurch massacre and the egging incident, and said it was an "appalling comparison."
Wednesday's censure motion against Anning has support from both sides of Parliament.
After New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern previously called Anning's comments on the shootings "a disgrace," her deputy Winston Peters on Tuesday called Anning a "jingoistic moron."
"I would call him a four-flushing, jingoistic moron, but you already know that in Australia," Peters said in a television interview with Australia's Sky News.
Immediately after Anning's response to the massacre last month, Morrison said the comments were "appalling and they're ugly and they have no place in Australia."
Anning came under blistering criticism over tweets within hours of the massacre, including one that said, "Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?"
"The real cause of the bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place," he said in a later statement.
Canberra, Mar 27 (AP/UNB) — Australia's prime minister on Tuesday accused an influential minor political party of trying to "sell Australia's gun laws to the highest bidders" by asking the U.S. gun lobby for donations.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was responding to an Al Jazeera documentary that reported One Nation party officials Steve Dickson and James Ashby flew to the United States for meetings with pro-gun interests including the National Rifle Association and political donors Koch Industries in September last year seeking money to undermine Australian gun laws.
Dickson and Ashby later told reporters that they had not secured any U.S. money. They also said they had been quoted by Al Jazeera out of context and often after drinking.
The trip took place weeks before the Australian Parliament banned foreign political donations with laws that took effect Jan. 1.
Morrison said the revelations were reasons why Australians should not vote for One Nation at general elections due in May.
"We have reports that One Nation officials basically sought to sell Australia's gun laws to the highest bidders to a foreign buyer and I find that abhorrent," Morrison said.
Morrison said his government had made laws to "criminalize taking foreign political donations so foreign lobbyists cannot seek to influence our politics."
Opposition leader Bill Shorten, whom opinion polls suggest will be prime minister after the election, accused One Nation of a "betrayal of the Australian political system."
"The idea of One National political party operatives going to the United States, seeking millions of dollars, promising to water-down gun law protection in Australia — that was absolutely horrifying," Shorten said.
The Al Jazeera documentary used secret recordings made by a journalist posing as gun lobbyist Rodger Muller with a hidden camera.
One Nation, an anti-Muslim party that had four senators after 2016 election but has been left with two after defections, said in a statement that all party members "have always complied with the law."
One Nation also suggested the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera had breached new laws that prohibit covert foreign interference in Australian politics. The party said it had had complained to Australia's main domestic security agency and police "due to concerns of foreign interference into Australian politics in the lead up to the imminent federal election."
"Al Jazeera are a state owned propaganda arm of the Qatari government that supports Islamic extremist groups and are not a legitimate media organization," the statement said.
"One Nation was invited by Rodger Muller, who has now been outed as a foreign agent working for Al Jazeera to meet with the NRA, American business leaders and attend the Congressional Sportsmen's Dinner" in Washington, the statement said.
The NRA in a statement late Tuesday said Al Jazeera representatives, disguised as members of a group called "Gun Rights Australia," had set up meetings with NRA employees and brought Australian political party members to those meetings. "At no time did the NRA contribute funding to any Australian political party or Gun Rights Australia," NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said in the statement.
Ashby, who is party leader Pauline Hanson's chief of staff, is recorded saying that the party would "own" both the Australian Senate and House of Representatives with a $20 million donation from the U.S. gun lobby. This means the party would hold the balance of power in both chambers and influence a government's legislative agenda.
Ashby also warned that if such a donation became public, it would "rock the boat."
He told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. trip had been a fact-finding mission to learn campaign tactics.
"These conversations with the NRA were to look at nothing more than their techniques. This was not about sourcing money from the NRA. This was about sourcing technology, sourcing an understanding of how they operate, but never was it about seeking $20 million dollars from the NRA," Ashby told reporters.
The news followed the mosque attacks in New Zealand on March 15 for which an Australian white supremacist has been charged with murder. New Zealand has responded by banning a range of semi-automatic weapons and foreshadowing a government-funded buyback of newly outlawed guns. The country's response is similar to how Australia strengthened its gun laws following the murders of 35 people by a lone gunman in 1996 in Tasmania.
One Nation state president Steve Dickson, who is a Senate candidate at the next election, traveled with Ashby and Muller to the United States to ask for political donations, Al Jazeera reported.
Dickon told NRA officials that the Australian gun control model "will poison us all, unless we stop it," Al Jazeera reported.
Dickson told reporters on Tuesday he supported Australia's gun laws. He said had not solicited donations in the United States, but conceded his party was not wealthy.
"I will tell you the absolute, humble truth. When I was asked: 'Do we need money to run election campaigns?' I said: 'Yes,'" Dickson told reporters.
A former One Nation senator who is now an independent lawmaker, Fraser Anning, has been widely criticized for blaming Muslim immigration for the New Zealand massacre.
Hanson, One Nation's leader who was criticized for wearing a burqa in the Senate, voted for the ban on foreign donations in November.
"Overseas money should not have an influence in our political scene .... so I believe foreign donations should be stopped," Hanson told the Senate.
Ashby and Dickson said Hanson did not speak to the media on Tuesday because she was unwell.
New Zealand, Mar 22 (AP/UNB) — In a day without precedent, people across New Zealand observed the Muslim call to prayer Friday as the nation reflected on the moment one week ago when 50 people were slaughtered at two mosques.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and thousands of others congregated in leafy Hagley Park opposite the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch to observe the call to prayer at 1:30 p.m.
"New Zealand mourns with you. We are one," Ardern said.
Thousands more listened on the radio or watched on live television. The prayer was followed by two minutes of silence.
On a light brown carpet, hundreds of Muslim men sat in socks or bare feet readying for the prayer. One man in the front row was in a Christchurch Hospital wheelchair.
The Al Noor mosque's imam, Gamal Fouda, thanked New Zealanders for their support.
"This terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology. ... But, instead, we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable," the imam said.
"We are broken-hearted but we are not broken. We are alive. We are together. We are determined to not let anyone divide us," he added, as the crowd erupted with applause.
Fahim Imam, 33, returned to his hometown for the service. He left Christchurch three years ago and now lives in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city.
"It's just amazing to see how the country and the community have come together — blows my mind, actually," Imam said before the event.
When he got off the plane Friday morning, he saw someone holding a sign that said "jenaza," denoting Muslim funeral prayer. He said others were offering free rides to and from the prayer service.
"The moment I landed in Christchurch, I could feel the love here. I've never felt more proud to be a Muslim, or a Kiwi for that matter. It makes me really happy to be able to say that I'm a New Zealander," Imam said.
He called it surreal to see the mosque where he used to pray surrounded by flowers.
The observance comes the day after the government announced a ban on "military-style" semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines like the weapons that were used in last Friday's attacks.
Forty-two people died at the Al Noor mosque and seven at the nearby Linwood mosque. One person shot at one of the mosques died later at a hospital.
An immediate sales ban went into effect Thursday to prevent stockpiling, and new laws would be rushed through Parliament that would impose a complete ban on the weapons, Ardern said.
"Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned," Ardern said.
The gun legislation is supported not only by Ardern's liberal Labour Party but also the conservative opposition National Party, so it's expected to pass into law. New Zealand does not have a constitutional right to bear arms.
Among those planning to attend Friday's observance was Samier Dandan, the president of the Lebanese Muslim Association in Sydney and part of a 15-strong delegation of Muslim leaders that had flown to Christchurch.
"It was an ugly act of terrorism that occurred in a beautiful, peaceful city," Dandan said.
He said his pain couldn't compare with that of the families he'd been visiting who had lost loves ones. He was inspired by their resilience, he said.
"And I've got to give all my respect to the New Zealand prime minister, with her position and her actions, and it speaks loud," he said.
Ismat Fatimah, 46, said it was sad to look at the Al Noor mosque, which was still surrounded by construction barricades, armed police officers and a huge mound of flowers and messages.
"We're feeling stronger than before, and we are one," she said.
She said she prayed for the people who died.
"I'm just imagining what would be happening last Friday," she said. "People were running around so scared and helpless. It's just not right."
Erum Hafeez, 18 said she felt comforted by the overwhelming response from New Zealanders: "We are embraced by the community of New Zealand, we are not left behind and alone."
The Al Noor mosque's imam said workers have been toiling feverishly to repair the destruction, some of whom offered their services for free. Fouda expects the mosque to reopen by next week.