Jewish community welcomes Netanyahu at Bondi Synagogue on controversial visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken warmly of his country’s relationship with Australia on a visit to the Central Synagogue in Bondi Junction on Wednesday evening.

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It comes after a day spent fielding questions over the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.

“There’s no better friend for the state of Israel,” Mr Netanyahu said of Mr Turnbull as the pair appeared before a 2000-strong Jewish congregation.

“But he’s had some standard bearers before him. John Howard and Tony Abbott.”

Both former prime ministers were seated just behind Mr Netanyahu in the synagogue and received huge applause from the congregation, which included NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, prominent lawyer Mark Leibler, retail billionaire Solomon Lew and Jeanne Pratt, widow of the late industrialist Richard Pratt.

Such adulation is harder to come by back at home for Mr Netanyahu, whose Likud party has been slipping in the opinion polls while he remains under police investigation into claims he wrongly accepted gifts from billionaires.

Mr Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, has also faced months of criticism over Israel’s rapid expansion of settlements on Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank – a move condemned by the United Nations.

Mr Turnbull spent much of the day defending Israel against the UN’s criticism.

Facing the congregation at his “local shul” – as he calls the synagogue in the heart of his Wentworth electorate – Mr Turnbull said Australia disassociated itself from the UN resolution because it attributed fault only to the state of Israel.

Mr Netanyahu said while he knew Israel was “much maligned” in the UN, he saluted Mr Turnbull for “standing up for Israel”.

“You refused to accept this hypocrisy,” he said.

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The Israeli leader sparked huge applause for speaking out about the need to “battle against those who seek to demonise Jews”, referring to a resurgence in anti-semitism in many parts of the world.

“It is something we need to fight together,” he said.

“I think this is important in Europe. It’s important in America. It’s very important that President Trump took a strong stand against anti-semitism.”

Mr Netanyahu left his crowd with an invitation.

“I want all of you to come to Israel. I want you to visit your friends and your families, I want you to walk the streets of the old city in Jerusalem and the Golan.

“We are part of you, you are part of us.”

Earlier, just hours after landing in Sydney for an historic four-day visit, Mr Netanyahu slammed suggestions by Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd for wanting Australia to join 137 other countries in giving diplomatic recognition to an independent Palestine.

“What kind of state will it be that they are advocating?” Mr Netanyahu asked during a press conference at Kirribilli House after holding bilateral talks with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday.

“A state that calls for Israel’s destruction? A state whose territory will be used immediately for radical Islam?”

Landed in Sydney for 1st-ever visit of an Israeli PM to Australia. Thanks for the warm welcome. I’m far from Israel, but feel at home. 🇮🇱🇦🇺 pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/qmUEuSKcJO

— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) February 21, 2017

The calls from Mr Hawke and Mr Rudd – both strong supporters of Israel and backed by former foreign ministers Gareth Evans and Bob Carr – are largely driven by concerns Israel’s expansion of Jewish settlements on land it occupies on the West Bank is damaging the prospects of peace with Palestinians.

The United Nations last December branded Israel’s settlements illegal under international law.

Australia at the time was a lone voice in defending Israel and accused the UN of being “one-sided”.

“Australia has been courageously willing to puncture UN hypocrisy more than once,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“The UN is capable of many absurdities and I think it’s important that you have straightforward and clear-eyed countries like Australia that often bring it back to earth,” he said after meeting Mr Turnbull.

Welcome to Australia Bibi & Sara! @netanyahu pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/ZoL8JqSzmb

— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) February 22, 2017

Mr Turnbull said he still believed that to be the case and that Australia still hopes a two-state solution with Israelis and the Palestinians living alongside each other can be achieved.

Referring to the Israeli leader’ by his nickname Bibi, Mr Turnbull suggested the circumstances could be right for both sides to restart peace talks, which last stalled in 2014.

One of the major sticking points in establishing independent states has been the Palestinians’ refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

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Mr Netanyahu said recognition was mandatory along with Israel having security control of all territories.

“If Israel is not there to ensure security, then that state very quickly will become another bastion of radical Islam,” he said.

“Other than that, I want the Palestinians to be able to govern themselves and to have all the freedoms to do so, but not the freedom to destroy the Jewish state.”

The Israeli leader and his wife Sara arrived in Sydney from Singapore on Wednesday morning, accompanied by a large business delegation to help develop trade and security ties with Australia.

His first official port of call in Sydney was the governor-general’s official residence Admiralty House, where he arrived by boat under police escort for talks with Sir Peter Cosgrove and Mr Turnbull.

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“We feel we are in the friendliest country possible,” Mr Netanyahu told Mr Turnbull as they sat down for talks on security, trade and the Middle East.

Mr Netanyahu paid tribute to the Light Horse Brigade’s liberation of Beersheba during World War I and Australia’s help in creating the Jewish state in 1947.

He later joined Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten at business luncheon, saying Israel was keen to develop an innovation partnership with Australia.

At the lunch, Mr Turnbull said Australia “deplored” the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which he said was designed “to delegitimise the Jewish state”.

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Climate change harms ocean hot spots:study

Six ocean hot spots that teem with the biggest mix of species are also getting hit hardest by global warming and industrial fishing, a study has found.

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An international study published in the journal Science Advances looked at 2100 species of fish, seabirds, marine mammals and even plankton to calculate Earth’s hot spots of marine biodiversity.

It also found overfishing and warming temperatures were hurting the lush life in these areas.

“In those hot spots, the changes are already happening,” says study co-author Andre Chiaradia, a senior scientist and penguin expert at the Phillip Island Nature Parks in Australia.

“They are the most at risk,” he said.

Researchers found the liveliest ocean hot spot also happens to be where the science of evolution sprouted: the Pacific Ocean off the central South American coast.

Other hot spots include the the southwestern Pacific off Australia’s southern and eastern coast, southwestern Atlantic Ocean off Argentina; the western Indian Ocean off the African coast; the central western Pacific Ocean surrounding Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and the Oceania region of the Pacific around the international date line.

Four of the six hot spots are in the Pacific; all are either in the southern hemisphere or just north of the equator.

“What makes this biodiversity? It’s the isolation,” Chiardia said.

“On land, we have kangaroos and weird animals like the platypus. And in the ocean it’s not different.”

Penguins, which are near the top of the food chain, were a good example of the impact of changing water temperatures and currents, Chiardia said.

Warm El Nino waters have decimated Galapagos penguins and the population of southern African penguins had dropped by about 90 per cent in just 20 years.

Leaks, not Russia ties, worry Republicans

Rank-and-file Republicans are more concerned about leaks of conversations between Trump advisers and the Russian government than they are about the conversations themselves, according to a new opinion poll.

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The Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted between February 16 and February 20, shows US President Donald Trump has shifted opinions within a party where national security has been a top issue since the Cold War, the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato says.

“Republicans have now put a higher priority on their partisan identification and support for their current leader than principles they have had for many decades,” Sabato said.

“We live in such a polarised era.”

The poll asked people to pick one of two statements that was “the most concerning to you”.

The first statement cited “reports that Trump advisers were in repeated contact with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election”.

The second cited “US intelligence agents leaking details of conversations between Trump advisers and the Russian government to reporters”.

Overall, 43 per cent of Americans said they were most concerned about reports of the contacts with Russia.

Another 39 per cent said they were concerned about the leaks and 19 per cent said they did not know.

However, people who identified with the Republican Party appeared to be much more troubled by the leaks.

About 57 per cent said the leaks were the bigger concern, while 23 per cent said it was the Russian contacts, and another 20 per cent did not know.

Trump asked his national security adviser Michael Flynn to resign in February after reports he had discussed US sanctions with a Russian diplomat while Barack Obama was still president.

Yet, while the media focused on the contacts with Russia, Trump blamed Flynn’s departure on “criminal” leaks.

“The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” Trump said in a tweet.

Dry winter saps farmers’ confidence

Farmers are the least confident they have been in four years after a lack of rain over winter slashed production forecasts.

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Sentiment is weak across all states and all sectors, including beef, sheep and grain, says agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank.

Rabobank says the drop in positive mood shown by its latest quarterly survey is unsurprising given that it comes off high levels of confidence over the past year, and many farmers are entering spring with limited soil moisture reserves.

Australia this year experienced its second-driest June on record, leading to downgraded winter crop prospects and cattle and sheep farmers putting animals on the market earlier than expected.

Fifty-one per cent of farmers expect the next 12 months to bring similar conditions to the previous year.

While the percentage of farmers expecting the agricultural sector to worsen over the next year increased to 27 per cent, from 10 per cent in the previous survey.

“With the season front of mind for many, 50 per cent of farmers nominated dry conditions as a major reason conditions were likely to deteriorate over the next 12 months – nearly double the 28 per cent with that view last quarter,” Rabobank said in a statement on Monday.

Concerns over dry conditions were especially heightened in the cropping sector, where the national wheat crop is forecast to reach 22 million tonnes – down from last season’s record 35 million tonnes.

Rabobank’s national manager Country Banking Australia, Todd Charteris, said early August rainfall had given some areas some relief.

But conditions were still very dry in Western Australia’s central and northern cropping regions and across much of Australia’s eastern seaboard.

Although, Victoria and northern Tasmania had benefited from good rainfalls in recent weeks.

Rabobank said that although farmers had lowered their expectations for the year ahead, they were still positive about the long-term outlook for the agribusiness sector.

The Rabobank survey, which questioned 1,000 primary producers, was completed in August.

CBA names new board appointee

Commonwealth Bank has appointed NSW Treasury Corporation director Robert Whitfield to its board while two current directors will leave as the bank battles allegations of breaching anti-money laundering and terror funding laws.

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Chairman Catherine Livingstone said Mr Whitfield, who has taken on the role as an independent non-executive director effective immediately, brings with him extensive risk management experience.

“Rob’s broad risk management and public sector experience, as well as his extensive banking experience, will deepen the board’s existing skills and expertise,” Ms Livingstone said in a statement on Monday.

The director of NSW Treasury Corporation was previously secretary of NSW Treasury and of NSW Industrial Relations.

Before NSW Treasury, Mr Whitfield held senior roles during a 30-year career at Westpac.

Two directors will retire from CBA’s board at the bank’s annual general meeting on November 16.

Launa Inman, who has been on the board for 10 years and served on its audit and remuneration committees, and Harrison Young, who has been a board director for six years and was a member of the risk, audit and nominations committees will step down.

Andrew Mohl has been asked to stand for re-election and serve one more year due to his extensive insurance experience.

The changes follow the mid-August announcement that CBA chief executive Ian Narev will retire this financial year.

The federal financial intelligence unit AUSTRAC launched civil proceedings in Federal Court in early August accusing CBA of breaching anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing laws.

During a directions hearing on Monday, the Federal Court gave the bank until December 15 to file its defence and the matter has been listed for a further directions hearing for April 2, 2018.

The bank is also facing an inquiry into its governance, culture and accountability by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, while the Australia Securities and Investments Commission is looking into whether CBA complied with its duties under the Corporations Act, including continuous disclosure obligations.

A shareholder class action also is on the cards.

CBA shares were $1.60, or 2.1 per cent, lower at $73.88 at 1348 AEST.

Australia urged to intervene in Myanmar

Protesters from Australia’s Rohingya community are calling on the federal government to intervene amid allegations of genocide in Myanmar against the ethnic minority group.

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Close to 300 protesters from NSW and Queensland chanted “help us Australia” outside Parliament House on Monday.

“They actually are ethnically cleansing and eradicating the whole Rohingyan race,” spokesman Ahsan Haque said.

“History is repeating itself. It’s basically what happened in WWII. Let’s not wait another century. Let’s act now and save them.”

The Australian government is being asked to pressure the Myanmar government into ending the persecutions or withdraw its foreign aid.

“This is as serious as it gets. It’s probably the worst the Rohingyas have seen in their country,” Mr Haque said.

“There are thousands more dying.”

The atrocities against the mostly Muslim minority in Arakan State by the Myanmar military are allegedly being supported by the government and Buddhist nationalists.

Since conflict erupted nearly two weeks ago, 3000 people are reported to have been killed, more than 100 villages burnt down and more than 300,000 people displaced, protesters say.

“We need to act immediately, otherwise it’ll be too late,” said Harun Harace, a Rohingya community leader.

Despite limited media access, allegations of rape, torture and the burning of prisoners alive, have also been exposed via leaked videos.

“Does this not move you?” Mr Harace asked.

Queensland community leader, Hussein Johar said, “the acts of genocide against the Rohingya are not random and should not be considered in isolation”.

German candidates want to block Turkey from EU

About 20 million Germans, almost one-third of the electorate in the country of 80 million, were predicted to tune in as the candidates met in a 90-minute televised debate.

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With almost half the voters still undecided, Martin Schulz, a former European Parliament chief and head of the Social Democratic Party, hoped to halt a major slide in the polls.

A recent poll had shown Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union ahead as they began their debate on topics ranging from domestic security to foreign policy.

But Mr Schulz appeared to surprise her with a promise to push for an end to the negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the European Unionif he were elected chancellor.

“If I become chancellor, I will not only cancel the agreement, but I will also call off Turkey’s accession talks with the EU. We have got to the point where no German citizen can safely travel to Turkey. We have got to a point where we must end the financial and economic ties, the customs union and the accession talks. We cannot do that alone. We must talk to our European partners about it. I think the next chancellor has the duty to protect Germany by saying to Turkey that all red lines have been crossed and, therefore, this country cannot become a member of the EU — which is actually difficult for me.”

Turkish president Rejep Tayyip Erdogan launched a huge purge of state institutions after military officers tried to oust him a year ago.

More than 50,000 people have since been arrested, including more than 170 journalists and many opposition politicians, academics and activists.

Responding to Mr Schulz, Angela Merkel initially cautioned against such a move by the European Union.

She said it would be irresponsible to endanger ties with Turkey at a time when 12 German citizens are imprisoned there on political charges.

“I was never in favour of Turkey joining the EU, and now I will reflect carefully on the options. I am immediately in favour of stopping pre-accession aid, but whether we close the door or whether Turkey does, we will have to see. Above all, I now want to help the 12 people, or it is now 14, who are sitting in prison for political reasons, and, here, I see limiting economic ties as a very important point.” n …)

But after the moderators moved on and asked a question about United States president Donald Trump, Ms Merkel returned to the Turkey issue.

She appeared to agree with ending the membership talks.

“Back to Mr Erdogan, of course we need a clear position here. I have a lot of experience talking to Mr Erdogan on this issue. Secondly, we are in agreement: no pre-accession help, and the fact that Turkey should not become a member of the EU is also clear. Apart from this, I’ll speak to my colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks.”

Another hot topic was migration, with Martin Schulz accusing Angela Merkel of failing to find a Europe-wide solution to the crisis.

But she defended her policies, saying they were absolutely right.

After the debate, Christian Democrats secretary general Peter Tauber praised her performance in the debate.

“Angela Merkel was just as people know her: calm, circumspect, level-headed, as a chancellor should be rather than just aiming for quick election points, and I thought that was very good.”

But German justice minister Heiko Maas, of the Social Democrats, says Martin Schulz was clear on both domestic and foreign policy.

“Above all, I thought Martin Schulz’s closing remarks were very convincing. You can see that he is a great European, and that is important. We won’t solve today’s big challenges alone, we need a strong Europe, and, for that, he is the best person you could imagine.”

 

 

 

Nationals MP criticises govt’s oil plan

A Nationals MP has accused his own government of “squibbing” on its obligation to manage the country’s oil supplies properly.

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Andrew Broad told parliament on Monday he isn’t satisfied the country has enough fuel in reserve or refineries to deal with a significant global emergency.

Members of the International Energy Agency are obliged to have 90 days worth of oil stock, but Australia does not currently comply.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, that would allow Australia to buy access to oil stocks to meet that obligation was not good enough, Mr Broad said.

“This appears to me like buying a boat with holes in it in case there’s going to be a flood,” he told MPs.

Mr Broad likened it to the Australian government being ill-prepared for the Pacific War, sending ships of troops to New Guinea without enough guns on board.

The proposed ‘ticketing’ system suits places like Europe with land borders but would not work satisfactorily for an island nation, he said.

The Victorian MP noted that of the countries from which Australia sources its oil, only one isn’t in the region of a potential conflict zone – and that was India.

“While the ticketing (mechanism) perhaps does tick the box and saves the government a lot of money, I do believe we are squibbing on our obligation to look after the security of the Australian people,” Mr Broad said.

“I think someone in this parliament needed to raise it.”

It wasn’t only about ensuring access to fuel for Australia’s defence capabilities, including tanks and planes, but also for food transport to heavily populated areas that have very limited food reserves.

Mr Broad wants Australia to increase its oil refining capacity and spread it across different locations to “limit the ability for them to be taken out by an airstrike”.

“This is maybe buying us time, but it is not addressing adequately the major risks that we have in our region,” he said.

Despite his concerns, he will still vote in favour of the legislation.

Israeli PM in Australia for official visit

Benjamin Netanyahu has just wrapped up a visit to Singapore.

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Before that, he was in the United States to meet with President Donald Trump.

Now, for the first time ever, a sitting prime minister of Israel is visiting Australia.

The Australian Jewish Council’s Dr Colin Rubenstein says it is difficult for Israeli leaders to get the opportunity to visit their allies.

“It’s very hard for Israeli prime ministers to leave the country for more than three days. Don’t you understand the country’s under perpetual threat? And the politics at home are rough and ready, as we all know. So it’s very difficult to get away for a week, essentially. And there are so many other issues on the agenda. It’s taken a while, perhaps it’s overdue, but, for all those reasons, that’s what makes it all the more exciting and important.”

But not everyone is excited by the prospect of Mr Netanyahu’s visit.

Peter Slezak belongs to a group called Independent Australian Jewish Voices, as well as the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network.

He says the invitation to Mr Netanyahu should never have been extended, citing concerns over the actions of Israeli forces in disputed territories.

“Well, I think we shouldn’t welcome him, we shouldn’t have invited him. Benjamin Netanyahu is responsible for very serious crimes against international law in the West Bank, in Gaza.”

Mr Slezak says there are many in the Jewish community who disagree with the policies of Israel and Mr Netanyahu.

“I’m Jewish. My parents are both Holocaust survivors. My mother and her mother survived Auschwitz. So, there’s a lesson we’re supposed to have learnt. We say, ‘Never again,’ but, sadly, I think most Jews don’t understand that properly. That means never again to anybody.”

In Canberra, the head of the general delegation of Palestine to Australia, Izzat Abdulhadi, says the meeting is an opportunity.

He wants Malcolm Turnbull to make the case for a two-state solution, with both Israel and Palestine recognised as sovereign countries.

“I hope, also, that Mr Turnbull told – will tell – Mr Netanyahu to end the occupation, military occupation, soon, immediately, because this would save the two-state solution. Otherwise, we will go through a sort of circle of violence, unfortunately.”

Mr Netanyahu will also meet with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who says he will express Labor’s support for a two-state solution, which has bipartisan support in Canberra.

Former Labor leader Kevin Rudd says he thinks Australia should go further and formally recognise a Palestinian state.

He joins similar calls from senior Labor figures Bob Carr, Bob Hawke and Gareth Evans.

But current Labor MP Michael Danby, a strong supporter of Israel, criticises his one-time political allies.

“I wish Bob Carr and Bob Hawke and Gareth Evans would be such big heroes when a giant like China comes to Australia. Where were they for the Tibetans or the Uyghurs?”

The Turnbull Government has been critical of settlements in recent months but has positioned itself as a close friend of Israel.

Last December, the United Nations Security Council voted 14-0 to condemn Israeli settlements, with the United States abstaining.

Australia does not have a seat in the council at the moment, but Mr Turnbull has said Australia would have voted against what he called a “one-sided” motion if it had the chance.

Mr Netanyahu will be in Australia for four days.

 

Western Sydney ban 14 fans after offensive banner display

Football Federation Australia (FFA) have issued a ‘show cause’ notice to the club in response to the banner, which they described as “offensive to any reasonable member of the public”, and the club may face severe penalties from the governing body.

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The banner, depicting a blue-faced man said to resemble Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold performing a sex act, was held aloft by Wanderers’ fans during their 1-0 A-League victory at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.

Wanderers Chief Executive John Tsatsimas said in a statement on Tuesday the supporters group had shown disdain for the club.

“Following a thorough review of the incident on Saturday including review of CCTV footage at the venue and examination of those involved … we have acted to remove them from our club,” Tsatsimas said.

“This incident involved key leaders of the RBB who have shown no remorse for their actions of bringing our club and the game of football into disrepute and have continued to flaunt their disdain for the club and our diverse and inclusive membership family further on social media.

“As a club we have had enough and have put the entire group on notice.”

The 2014 Asian Champions League winners said the bans were imposed by the club and not by the FFA or the venue.

Western Sydney added that if there was any further trouble from the group, either in person or on social media, then the entire section where they watch games — called the active supporter area — would be shut down.

Western Sydney have already been given a suspended points deduction until the end of the season after fans lit flares in a previous match.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Dickson praises medicinal cannabis change

Queensland One Nation MP Steve Dickson says the federal government’s move to make it easier to access medicinal cannabis vindicates his decision to jump ship to the minor party.

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Mr Dickson defected from the Liberal Nation Party in January, claiming his concerns about access to medicinal cannabis weren’t being listened to.

Federal health minister Greg Hunt announced on Wednesday changes allowing importers to stockpile medicinal cannabis instead of importing it on a case-by-case basis, which greatly reduces the time it takes for sick people to begin treatment.

Mr Dickson, who now a crossbencher, says his defection was the catalyst for One Nation leader Pauline Hanson lobbying the prime minister and getting results.

“I feel vindicated for what I’ve done, I feel relief for so many families in Australia and right throughout Queensland,” he told ABC Radio.

“Senator Pauline Hanson has lobbied the prime minister continually and constantly, no other MPs in this country have done what I believe Senator Hanson and myself have done.”

The Member for Buderim said he couldn’t have achieved the same result if he’d remained in the LNP.

“They would have continued to sit back and laugh, as they laughed at me in the cabinet room.”

Queensland LNP leader Tim Nicholls on Wednesday again rejected suggestions the party hadn’t listened to Mr Dickson while he was still in the party.

“Steve Dickson was all about Steve Dickson, we’re all about putting Queensland jobs first,” Mr Nicholls told reporters on the Sunshine Coast.

“I think the people of Buderim have been ratted on by Steve Dickson. He got elected under the LNP banner, he supported LNP policies but when the going got tough, Steve got going.”

Mr Nicholls also denied the LNP was struggling to find a candidate to challenge Mr Disckson for Buderim at the next state election, saying they have “a great field of candidates” and the party is committed to regaining the seat.

Melbourne crash pilot’s wife struggling

The wife of the pilot who died in a fiery crash at a Melbourne airport is “really struggling”, her sister says.

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Max Quartermain died when the plane he was flying crashed into the Essendon airport DFO shortly after take-off on Tuesday morning.

His sister-in-law Irene Gould said the past day had been an “incredibly sad time” for her sister Cilla Quartermain and their children.

“Please pray for Cilla and the children that they will find some comfort and peace in this horrific situation,” Ms Gould posted on Facebook on Wednesday.

“Cilla is really struggling. Good bye Max, you were a very special man and a brilliant pilot.”

Australian Corporate Jets chief executive Bas Nikolovski said the 63-year-old Mr Quartermain was “one of the most experienced pilots'” and he was shocked when he heard about the crash.

“Every aspect of my body had goosebumps” Mr Nikolovski told AAP.

Steve Atto, who had flown with Mr Quartermain, said on Facebook that he was a “diligent pilot” and “we all trusted and enjoyed his company”.

The Quartermains owned Corporate and Leisure Aviation, operating the business from their Rye home on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

The now-offline website for the business said Quartermain was the holder and operator of an Air Operations Certificate for more than 38 years and had an “impeccable safety record”.

He’d previously operated private charter company Seidler Aviation.

A Seidler aircraft was involved in a “unsafe” near miss at Mount Hotham in September 2015, where an Essendon-based plane came within 100 metres of another plane.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is still investigating the incident, and bureau chief commissioner Greg Hood would not comment on Mr Quartermain’s involvement.

Mr Quartermain also drove on a casual basis for Buddy’s Bus Service and was “held in high regard by fellow workers and customers alike”, the company said.

Peninsula Dog Walkers Association president Trevor Robinson said Mr Quartermain was “an incredible man”.

“We most certainly will never be able to replace you Max, you will be so dearly missed,” he posted online.

Mr Quartermain was an active member of local conservation groups, and owned a boat shed on the Mornington Peninsula.

Australian forces within 50km of Mosul

Australian special forces are within 50 kilometres of the frontline of the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul as the ground offensive shifts to liberating the city’s west.

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Australian soldiers are at forward operating bases advising and assisting Iraqi soldiers and providing medical treatment to the wounded.

Schools and markets have reopened and life is starting to return to normal for civilians in East Mosul.

But an estimated 750,000 civilians are under siege across the Tigris River which is home to the old city with narrower streets and denser terrain.

Australian Defence Force chief of joint operations Vice Admiral David Johnston warned there is likely to be IS (Daesh) sleeper cells among the civilian population in the city’s east who will conduct terrorist attacks to delay the offensive in the west.

“The liberation of Mosul will not be the end of the mission to defeat Daesh but its successful conclusion will increase pressure on Daesh, both in Iraq, Syria and globally,” Vice Admiral Johnston told reporters in Canberra.

Australian combat aircraft have struck 131 targets across the Mosul area since the advance began in October.

The targets hit include improvised explosive factories, Islamic State fighters, heavy weapon locations, tunnel entrances and weapon caches.

Australian and New Zealand soldiers have so far trained seven Iraqi brigades fighting to take back Mosul.

A total of 19,000 Iraqi soldiers have gone through training at the Taji base along with 1900 police.

The next phase of the mission after Mosul’s fall will target IS fighters at Tal Afar, the Euphrates River valley near the Syrian border.

Australia has 780 defence personnel deployed to the Middle East as part of US-led coalition fighting IS extremists.

The Pentagon is devising a new war strategy for US President Donald Trump, expected to be released in the next fortnight.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists US requests for a greater Australian contribution would be decided on merit.

Vice Admiral Johnston said if the government approved any “there would be options”.