‘It’s going to ruin everything’: Thousands flock to nationwide protests to fight Adani coal mine

Today on Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach, located in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Wentworth electorate, at least 2000 protesters spelled out the words ‘Stop Adani’.

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“People really are against this coal mine. We need to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull that funding a giant coal mine in Queensland just makes no sense,” said organiser Blair Palese the CEO of lobby group 350南京楼凤,.

“It’s not time for more coal, it’s time for the solutions to climate change.”

Stephen Lightfoot and his partner Elizabeth Hess brought their two young sons to the beach protest.

The told SBS World News that they feared for the future of the region if the coal mine is built.

“We really don’t want taxpayer money going to a mine that is putting our Great Barrier Reef at risk, we really don’t want it,” Mr Lightfoot said.

“I think anything you can do might help to stop this, so at least we’re trying to do something,” Ms Hess said. 

45 protests in ‘national day of action’

Meanwhile hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside Parliament House in Canberra to voice their opposition to the Carmichael mine as dozens of similar rallies took place across Australia on Saturday.

Major rallies also took place at Newtown, Brisbane, Port Douglas and Carlton North.

“The mine is just going to ruin everything, the water, the reef, the farming land, and also we’re lending them $1 billion and I cannot believe we can’t spend that money on jobs in other areas like renewables,” Michele Smith told AAP in Canberra.

Fellow protester Kathy Kituai said she was sceptical about what the state and federal governments stand to gain from the “insane” project, while Lois McRae is worried about the irreversible damage it may cause.

“It is ludicrous to propose this mine and it has got to be abandoned,” Ms McRae told AAP.

Those who gathered in Canberra waved placards and chanted slogans before heading off on a march, while people in other locations created human “Stop Adani” signs.

Scores of red-clad protesters also turned out at Brisbane’s Crosby Park on Saturday afternoon to create a human sign spelling out “Stop Adani” as part of a National Day of Action.

Jeff Hansen national director of Sea Shepherd Australia said his organisation was typically known for defending whale populations’ feeding grounds in the Antarctic.

“However, they face an even bigger threat in the form of the Adani coal mine,” he said.

He said “huge numbers” of coal ships would move through the Great Barrier Reef if the mine goes ahead, posing a serious threat to the whales’ birthing grounds.

“Not to mention the burning of fossil fuels is having a catastrophic impact on Antarctica and the krill numbers, the whales’ food,” he added.

The national rallies come as new polling shows more than half of Australians oppose the central Queensland mine.

Two-thirds of people also believe the Queensland government should veto a proposed $1 billion Commonwealth loan for a rail line to the Carmichael mine.

Indigenous activist Lola Forester told SBS World News the site will ‘desecrate’ numerous First Nation communities.

0:00 Thousands join nationwide protests against Adani Share Thousands join nationwide protests against Adani

“Not only the people that are working in the coalmines will end up with black lung, but it’s coming up in our children as well,” Ms Forester said.

“So it’s not just about the environment, it’s about the cost of human lives that are happening up there.

At least 2000 people spelled the words ‘Stop Adani’ at Bondi beach in Sydney. It was one of numerous protests across the country against the proposed coal mine. (Supplied)SUPPLIED

New poll results show Australian majority against Adani

Almost 2200 people were quizzed in the ReachTel poll this week.

Respondents were told Adani wanted to build a new coal mine in Queensland, which the Indian company said would create local jobs.

They were also told concerns had been raised about the company’s corporate track record and the environmental impact of the mine, before being asked if they supported or opposed the project going ahead.

A clear majority of people (55.5 per cent) either opposed or strongly opposed the mine, while 26.1 per cent said they supported or strongly supported it.

Almost one in five (18.4 per cent) were undecided.

Support was highest among Australian Conservatives, Liberal and One Nation voters, while Greens, Labor and Nationals voters were most keenly opposed.

“And I have to say if he doesn’t respond to it (the protests and figures), it will be goodbye Malcolm,” added businessman and Australian Conservation Foundation President Geoff Cousins.

Adani allegations

An ABC Four Corners investigation this week aired allegations of bribery, corruption, tax evasion and money laundering by Adani-linked companies.

Those polled were also told Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made an election commitment that Labor would not spend public funds on Adani’s private rail line for their coal mine.

People were then asked if the Queensland government should keep its promise and use its power to veto a $1 billion Commonwealth loan to Adani for the rail line.

Two-thirds of respondents (65.8 per cent) said they should veto the loan, while 17.7 per cent said they should not, with 16.5 per cent undecided.

The Stop Adani Alliance, which is organising the national rallies, is made up of 31 organisations.

Its membership has doubled since it launched in March, while more than 160 groups have formed in that time.

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Xenophon dumps candidate over Facebook pic

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has sacked an SA-Best candidate after a Facebook photo emerged of the man holding his fist to a wax model of pop star Rihanna.

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Rhys Adams was on Saturday named and then dropped as Senator Xenophon’s candidate for the Liberal-held SA seat of Finniss after the ABC reported on his Facebook photos, which also showed him groping another waxwork model of Toni Collette in Sydney in 2015.

The caption accompanying the Rihanna photo says “it’s Chris baby” and shows him holding a fist to the wax model. The pop star was assaulted in 2009 by her then-boyfriend Chris Brown.

“(I was) made aware of it this afternoon and sacked him within 10 minutes,” Senator Xenophon told AAP on Saturday, ending Mr Adams’ candidacy just hours after it began.

“I acted immediately because you cannot make a joke about domestic violence.”

In a statement, Mr Adams said the photos showed him “doing stupid things with a juvenile sense of humour”.

“Back then I didn’t take into account those that may be hurt by a what I now reflect on as a very poor-taste joke which certainly doesn’t reflect my mindset or my values,” he said.

“I am certainly sorry for any offence I’ve cause with previous Facebook posts and I wish the SA-Best team the very best going forward.”

Senator Xenophon – whose future was under a cloud due to constitutional questions about his citizenship – announced on Friday he was quitting federal politics to run for his home Adelaide seat of Hartley in the March state election.

The Senate powerbroker also said SA-Best would field candidates in key electorates in the hopes of becoming kingmakers after the March state election.

Despite Mr Adams’ sacking, Senator Xenophon maintained the party’s vetting process for candidates was up to scratch.

“The vetting process is a sound process because people go through extensive questions, police checks, background checks,” he said.

“We already have social media vetting but this was missed. It should not have been missed and the fact it was missed is a very valuable lesson.”

Finniss is held by the Liberal’s Michael Pengilly, who will retire at the next election.

Liberal MP Vincent Tarzia holds the seat of Hartley with a 3.3 per cent margin and has told Senator Xenophon to “bring it on”.

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

Alexander issues challenge for Diamonds

Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander is beginning to see a return to the Australian style of netball which went missing against the Silver Ferns a month ago.

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And she wants to see her players up the ante in Sunday’s second Constellation Cup Test in Christchurch.

Thumped 57-47 in the Quad Series finale in Invercargill, the Diamonds rebounded to edge the Kiwis 57-54 in Auckland on Thursday in the opening match of the four-Test series.

Gone was an uncharacteristic hesitancy in attack, while an improved defensive effort generated plenty of turnover ball to keep the scoreline ticking over.

“We were very pleased with the progress towards getting that teamwork back, and that Aussie style of skill that we like to see,” Alexander told NZ Newswire.

“Pretty much for the whole Quad Series, we weren’t scoring off turnovers created by our defenders and that’s just not good enough.

“It’s still not perfect, but we’re showing much more patience and good decision making at the right times.”

Alexander isn’t entirely satisfied, however, and is looking for further improvement on Sunday after the Diamonds failed to build on their lead in Auckland.

“There were parts of that game when we got to be eight goals up, and we just didn’t put the foot down.

“That’s credit to the Silver Ferns too, because they made some really good changes in defence.

“But we’ve got to recognise those things a little more quickly, be able to actually put the foot down and get a bit more of a buffer between us a bit earlier.”

Alexander’s focus, along with that of New Zealand coach Janine Southby, is to build depth and develop combinations ahead of next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool.

The Diamonds are defending champions at both pinnacle events, with the Kiwis the beaten finalists.

“The teams are pretty evenly matched in a lot of areas if you look at player-for-player,” Alexander said.

“It’s a matter of getting that right combination – we want to get that real teamwork back, which we thought was missing in that final Test in Invercargill.”

Iraq’s ex-President Talabani buried

Thousands of Iraqi Kurdish mourners, Iraqi officials and world dignitaries have attended the funeral of Jalal Talabani, the country’s first president in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and once a symbol of national unity.

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Talabani was laid to rest on Friday in Sulaimaniyah, the second-largest city in Iraq’s Kurdish region, after his casket – draped in the Kurdish flag – was flown back from Berlin where he died at a hospital earlier this week.

From the airport in Suleimaniyah, a motorcade carried the casket to a nearby hill for burial. Crowds poured into the streets, following the funeral procession on foot, carrying flags and posters bearing Talabani’s image and the emblem of the political party he founded more than three decades ago, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Many threw flowers on top of the coffin.

While Talabani traces his roots to a small village in Iraq’s north, Sulaimaniyah is the seat of his political power.

A long-time champion of Kurdish self-rule, Talabani, also established himself as a national statesman after accepting the largely symbolic office of the presidency two years after the 2003 US invasion toppled Saddam.

He held the post from 2005 to 2014, but faded from Iraqi political life after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2012.

During his time as president, Talabani was seen as a symbol of unity, a politician able to manage tensions between Sunnis, Shi’Ites and Kurds that in Iraq often erupt into violence.

Talabani’s death in Germany on Tuesday came as Iraq struggles to manage the fallout of a controversial referendum on Kurdish independence spearheaded by his long-time Iraqi Kurdish political rival, Masoud Barzani.

While Barzani was present at the funeral and laid a wreath of white flowers at Talabani’s casket, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was not in attendance.

Interior Minister Qassim al-Araji came to Sulaimaniyah to pay his respects in al-Abadi’s place.

Also in attendance were Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif; Iraq’s current president and fellow Kurd, Fuad Masum; US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman, and Jan Kubis, the top UN envoy in Iraq.

Baghdad, along with neighbouring Turkey and Iran, has rejected the Kurdish referendum and is demanding Kurdish leadership do the same. While the vote in non-binding and will not immediately create an independent state, many saw it as a symbolic affirmation of the Iraqi Kurdish dreams for a state of their own.

Spain braces for more protests in Catalonia crisis

Catalan leaders had threatened to declare independence unilaterally and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed to stop them, rejecting calls for mediation in a dispute that has drawn cries of concern even from Barcelona and Real Madrid footballers.

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Spain’s deepest political crisis in decades has raised fears of further unrest in the northeastern region, a tourist-friendly area of 7.5 million people that accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy.

Opponents of secession have called for demonstrations around Spain and a major rally in Barcelona on Saturday.

Also Saturday, people who support dialogue to end the crisis plan to gather in a bid to pressure mayors nationwide. The anonymous initiative, which spread across social media, seeks to promote talks using the slogan: “Spain is better than its leaders”.

“It’s the moment to come together to tell (our leaders) that they are incapable and irresponsible,” the group’s manifesto reads. The gathering will start from around midday (1000 GMT). 

A “patriotic” march will start around the same time in central Madrid, organised by people who support a united Spain.

Friday saw the first signs the sides may be willing to step back from the brink in a political conflict that risks destabilising Europe.

After days of ill-tempered rhetoric, the central government said it regretted the injuries and suggested Catalonia should hold a regional election to settle the crisis.

Catalan government minister Santi Vila, a close of ally of regional president Carles Puigdemont, meanwhile told broadcaster Rac1 that his side could consider a “ceasefire” in the dispute, to avoid a further crackdown by Madrid.

Businesses and the government kept up economic pressure on Catalonia however, with several big companies announcing moves to shift their legal domiciles to other parts of Spain.

Two teenage girls walk along the street to take part in Tuesday’s demonstration. One wears a Spanish flag, while the other wears the independence flag.AAP

‘We deeply regret’

Puigdemont postponed an appearance in the regional parliament at which some leaders were hoping for a declaration of independence, a spokesman said, gaining time and easing tensions. It was unclear what he planned to say at the session.

Spain’s central government apologised on behalf of police to people hurt in last Sunday’s referendum disturbances.

“I can do nothing but regret it, apologise on behalf of the officers who intervened,” said the government’s representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo.

Central government spokesman Ignacio Mendez de Vigo also said later he “regretted” the injuries.

“It would be good to start mending this fracture… through regional elections,” he told a news conference.

In Madrid meanwhile, Catalonia’s police chief and two prominent separatist leaders avoided being remanded in custody at a court hearing Friday over sedition accusations.

The court summons raised tensions, but, despite the gravity of the accusations, the court did not issue a custodial order that could have further escalated the dispute.

Thousands of Catalans have protested against a violent police crackdown against the referendum. (AAP)AAP

Economic pressure

Spain’s Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered the suspension of a session scheduled for Monday in the Catalan parliament at which some leaders have called for an independence declaration.

If Catalonia declares independence, Spain could respond by suspending the region’s existing autonomous status and imposing direct rule from Madrid.

On another front, the government in Madrid pushed ahead with a measure to pressure Catalonia economically.

It passed a decree to make it quicker for businesses to shift their legal domiciles away from one region to another.

Energy company Gas Natural and Catalonia’s two biggest banks, Sabadell and CaixaBank, said they were shifting their legal headquarters out of Catalonia.

Sources who asked not to be named told AFP that some customers had been withdrawing money from their bank accounts over concerns for the political situation.

With its own language and cultural traditions, demands for independence in Catalonia date back centuries but have surged during recent years of economic crisis.

The Catalan government later on Friday published final results from the referendum vote indicating that 90 percent of voters backed the region breaking away from Spain.

Voter turnout was 43 percent.

Recent polls have indicated that Catalans are split on independence, though leaders warned the violence during the referendum turned many against the state authorities.

Switzerland said Friday it was “in contact” with both sides in the crisis but stressed that formal mediation could not begin until both camps were ready.

Madrid has said there will be no talks or mediation until the Catalans abandon the independence bid.