Monthly Archives: January 2019

2019
01/14

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Was it legal to deport West Papuans to PNG?

Questions are being raised over whether Australia acted lawfully when it sent seven West Papuan asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea after they were apprehended in the Torres Strait.

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Greg Dyett and Stefan Armbruster reports.

 

People in fear for their lives or political activists intent on grandstanding?

 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the seven are in the latter category and it was appropriate for them to be transported to Port Moresby under a 2003 Memorandum of Understanding with Papua New Guinea.

 

The seven from the Indonesian province of West Papua, including a 10-year-old child, took part in a ceremony involving the handover of sacred water and ashes from Australian Indigenous elders.

 

Boigu island local government councillor Dimas Toby explained to 4MW Torres Strait local radio what happened.

 

“The group of activists that came through here and did the ceremonial handing of the ashes and the water from Lake Eyre, without my knowledge, I’ve only found that out in the past couple of days that these guys were doing this around my community, which they indicated down there that they were doing this close to Indonesia, it wasn’t, it was just behind one of the islands that is just about 500 metres behind my community.”

 

The elders are members of a group calling itself the Freedom Flotilla, which sailed from Australia towards Indonesia to bring attention to alleged human rights abuses in West Papua, and its long running independence movement.

 

Indonesia claimed West Papua in 1969 in a referendum regarded by some as a sham.

 

The seven West Papuans say they were hounded by the Indonesian security forces for taking part in the ceremony and that saw them attempt to get asylum in Australia.

 

Councillor Dimas Toby from Boigu island met the seven West Papuans.

 

“There was only one or two that speak English, so I managed to talk to them and the information they gave me was that they were fleeing from the tension that is happening in Indonesia. and we could tell that when we were talking with them and trying to get some information they were very very scared and under fear.”

 

The group is understood to have travelled to PNG by speedboat from West Papua and spent just over three days there before crossing the Torres Strait in a small boat to Australia’s Boigu Island, which is only a few kilometres south of PNG.

 

“They arrived by banana boat. It is about a 17 to 20 foot dingy. I think the skipper was, from what the local knowledge says, is that several weeks earlier on he had two Somalians. The local knowledge that was told by the local is that it was the same operator who dropped off the Somalians, because the point they were dropped off at night is the same area in the community, which is the back end of the community, they were found walking up the same street.”

 

Immigration officials intercepted the West Papuans on Boigu before they were flown to Papua New Guinea.

 

One of the seven, Yacob Mandabyan, told the ABC immigration officials told them they were going to be taken to Australia, but once they were aboard a plane the story changed.

 

“When we are in the aircraft, when the door is closed the guy from the Immigration told us that we are not going to the mainland but we are returned to PNG. I am asking him why? But their answer: because that’s what the boss or the office or anything like that say that that’s what the country decides. We are so sad, it’s driving us crazy and we all cry, just so upset, yeah.”

 

The Refugee Action Coalition says sending the West Papuans to PNG was unlawful because the 10-year-old MOU only permits Australia to send asylum seekers back to PNG if they had been living there for more than a week.

 

The Coalition’s Ian Rintoul.

 

“Well the clause refers specifically that the MOU can only be used if the people, the asylum seekers in Australia have been in Papua New Guinea for seven days or longer and this is simply not the case with the seven asylum seekers that were returned to Papua New Guinea and it’s very clear I think in terms of the MOU that there was no basis for the government to use their MOU to send those people back to Papua New Guinea.”

 

Ian Rintoul says there are real concerns about how the seven will be treated in Papua New Guinea.

 

“One of the other clauses of the agreement is that if people are returned from Australia to Papua New Guinea under that agreement then Papua New Guinea is obliged to carry out a refugee determination assessment of them in Port Moresby but this raises more questions than answers about Papua New Guinea’s willingness and ability to actually carry out that refugee determination let alone provide actual refugee status security for people if they’re found to be refugees.”

 

Ian Rintoul’s concerns are shared by this man who took part in a demonstration in Melbourne on the weekend against the deportation.

 

“Taking them to PNG is not very bright idea because Papua New Guinea is not a very safe place for them speaking by my own experience especially one of them who is a minor who is 10 years old so we would like to ask the Australian government and Australian public to see this as a serious matter.”

 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says what’s transpired is an example of Australia respecting Indonesia’s sovereignty.

 

“There were some people who turned up in the Torres Strait last week wanting to grand stand about issues in Papua. Well very swiftly under the usual MOU, under the MOU with PNG, they went back to PNG.”

 

 

2019
01/14

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Cyclists protest as Indian city bans biking on key roads

Under beaming sunshine, they gathered in the Esplanade area of the former colonial capital, chanting “We want cycles back!” and holding placards which read “Turn off your engine.

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Kids breathe here!”

“Banning cycles in a city like Kolkata does not make any sense. It’s a crazy decision,” Gautam Shroff, a spokesman for local cycling group Ride 2 Breathe, told AFP.

“We wonder when many countries are encouraging cycling in a bid to ease growing pollution, why authorities put a ban on cycling here?” he said.

Local police barred bikers as well as the city’s famous hand-pulled rickshaws from 174 roads and streets in August to try to reduce the legendary traffic-jams in the eastern city of 14 million people.

Officers recently started seizing bikes, further provoking the city’s legions of cyclists who are mostly poor working-class people who run a daily gauntlet among thousands of aggressively driven cars and trucks.

“Police are harassing cycle riders. My cycle was seized a week ago when I was riding to supply milk,” said Yogesh Yadav, a milkman who works in the centre of the city.

“We will fight against the decision,” he added.

Average traffic speeds locally are down to 8-11 miles per hour (14-18 kilometres per hour) compared with India’s average of 13 mph (22kmph), state transport minister Madan Mitra explained to AFP.

“Kolkata has less cars than other metropolitan cities in the country, but most of its roads and streets are narrow,” he explained.

“It’s a decision to ease the traffic bottlenecks and increase the speed of vehicles,” Mitra said, adding: “It’s not a blanket ban. One can ride cycles in lane and by-lanes of the city.”

2019
01/14

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Mourinho happy after Chelsea clean up Champions League act

Mourinho’s team selections had been questioned by the British press after last month’s shock 2-1 home defeat to Basel in their European opener and the Portuguese coach cut short his pre-match news conference on Monday irritated by further questions on the issue.

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While Mourinho looked impassive after watching his side, he was clearly happier about his team’s position in Group E where they are now second on three points behind Germany’s Schalke 04, who won 1-0 against Basel on Tuesday to move onto six.

“We needed to clean up what we did at home (against Basel)and we did it with a good performance,” he said of the 2012 Champions League winners who failed to advance from the group stage last season.

“If we didn’t win today we were in trouble. We finish the group with a game at home (against Steaua), that is an advantage, but at this moment I don’t want to think about finishing first, I want to think about qualifying for the next stage.”

Brazil midfielder Ramires scored twice, either side of an own goal from Daniel Georgievski, Frank Lampard got the fourth, while German winger Andre Schurrle and Spain’s Juan Mata were outstanding in a game Chelsea could have won by a bigger margin.

“Schurrle was fundamental. We identified what we had to do to penetrate their defence He was the man for that,” said Mourinho, who had publicly criticised the newly-arrived German after the Basel defeat.

“We scored four and probably could have scored six or seven because we played really well.

“I put a lot of pressure on the players for this game, and they coped well with that pressure,” he added.

“In attacking areas we had beautiful moments in the game but everything started at the back. (Branislav) Ivanovic, David Luiz, who made zero mistakes all game, (John) Terry and (Ashley)Cole gave us stability and from there the team could cope with the situation.”

Mourinho even maintained his optimism when talking about Fernando Torres’ knee injury after the Spain striker had limped off in the 11th minute.

“Our doctor is confident it is not a big injury like (Marco) Van Ginkel’s, but we will have to wait for the scans,” he said following the news that Van Ginkel could miss the rest of the season with ligament damage.

Next up for Chelsea are back-to-back matches against Schalke who will prove a much sterner test for the Londoners than the Steaua who are bottom of the table having lost both their matches and conceded seven goals.

“Now we have three points from two matches. Basel lost and now have the same points as us, so Schalke have the advantage, but we now have two fixtures against them. We are going to do it (qualify for the last 16),” Mourinho said.

(Editing by Mitch Phillips)

2019
01/14

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Afghan soldier accused of killing diggers caught

The Afghan National Army sergeant who allegedly shot and killed three Australian soldiers in Afghanistan has been captured, Defence force chief General David Hurley says.

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“We now expect him to stand trial for murder,” General Hurley told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate were killed in the so-called green on blue attack on August 29 last year inside a patrol base 20km north of Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province.

The three men died and two other diggers were injured when Afghan National Army (ANA) sergeant Hekmatullah allegedly fired 10 to 15 automatic rounds at Australian soldiers who were playing cards inside the base.

He was apprehended in Pakistan by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in February and recently deported to Afghanistan.

If convicted, Hekmatullah could face the death penalty.

General Hurley said the news was “bittersweet” for the families of the three soldiers killed.

“On the one hand, there is a great sense of relief, but it will not change history,” he said.

General Hurley said the timing was particularly sensitive, given the recent anniversary of the soldiers’ deaths.

He extended his sympathy to the families of the fallen soldiers and asked that their privacy be respected.

He praised the authorities involved in capturing the accused man, including Australian Defence Force members, Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Defence Intelligence Organisation, Australian Signals Directorate and Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation.

General Hurley confirmed Hekmatullah could face the death penalty under Afghan law.

Pakistani authorities advised Australia in February it had Hekmatullah in custody.

When asked why it took so long for him to be returned to Afghanistan, General Hurley said that was a matter for the Pakistani authorities.

“I think they were just working their way through to find both a process for this handover to occur and when would be the appropriate time,” he said.

It would have been inappropriate and possibly detrimental for Australia to reveal his capture in February while the Pakistan and Afghan governments were negotiating transfer arrangements.

General Hurley said Hekmatullah’s capture drew a line under the four insider attacks on Australian soldiers in Afghanistan in recent years.

“Those responsible for the deaths of seven Australian soldiers and who wounded another 10 have been captured or killed and no longer pose a threat to our people,” he said.

“We have been quite determined in our efforts to pursue those who have murdered and wounded our people and we will continue to cooperate with Afghan authorities as they prosecute the case.”

Some 40 Australian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

2019
01/14

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Few female execs makes no sense, says ANZ

ANZ chairman John Morschel says it is crazy for businesses not to have women account for half of their management teams.

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But he understands Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s difficulties in achieving the same standard in federal cabinet.

Speaking about company culture at a function in Sydney, Mr Morschel said the reason for businesses to pursue gender diversity was simple.

“About 50 per cent of the population is female and if you’re in a business dealing with the Australian community, you’d be absolutely crazy not to have an objective of having 50 per cent of your management of female gender,” he said.

“It really just doesn’t make any sense to me not to have it.”

Companies need to encourage more women into all levels of management and boardroom roles, but that was only possible if more attention was paid to training and recruitment, Mr Morschel said.

“You have to have the available resources from which to select those people,” he said.

“For a position to be sustainable the position has to be filled on a merit basis.”

About 40 per cent of ANZ’s employees are female, but in senior management that is only about 22 per cent, Mr Morschel said.

“It is really a great struggle because the appropriate attention hasn’t been paid to recruiting and training people, women particularly, to fulfill senior management roles,” he said.

“So I dare say the prime minister had similar sorts of issues to deal with and he’s dealt with them the best way he possibly can.”

The bank chairman also mounted an emphatic defence of chief executive Mike Smith’s $10 million pay packet, which has made him Australia’s highest paid banking boss.

“Most shareholders and members of the public don’t have any comprehension of what is involved in running an organsiation which, in the case of ANZ, has a market capitalisation in excess of $70 billion, it operates in 33 different countries, it employes 50,000 people, it is a very, very highly regulated business,” Mr Morschel said.

“It is a huge task.

“In addition to that you are trying to recruit or retain an executive that has appropriate experience in the business and generalist bankers … are very very hard to find.

“I can assure you the board of ANZ doesn’t want to pay the chief executive any more than is absolutely necessary.

“But I think the performance of the organisation reflects the calibre of the chief executive and also his remuneration reflects what the global market is prepared to pay for him.”

Mr Morschel said he was “very relieved” when Mr Smith rejected an approach to go and run Barclays Bank in 2012.

“He was offered, I would dare say, a lot more money,” Mr Morschel said.

“I don’t know the details of that, but I think we’re damn lucky to have him.”

2019
01/13

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Phillipines charges clan with murder, rebellion

The Philippines said Sunday that leaders of a clan detained after martial law was imposed in their southern stronghold would be charged with rebellion, as more buried weapons were found.

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The rebellion charges are separate to murder cases being prepared against them over last month’s election-linked massacre of 57 people in their home province of Maguindanao, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said.

“We did not see them plotting against the government, we saw the deed done. They have usurped power from the government there,” Devanadera told DZBB radio.

“This is not ordinary chaos taking place in one area, this has an armed component. And there is removal of allegiance from the republic of the Philippines by the leaders of this group.”

President Gloria Arroyo imposed martial law in Maguindanao late on Friday in an effort to rein in the Ampatuan family, a Muslim clan that has ruled the province for most of this decade with the backing of private armies.

The clan patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Snr, governor of Maguindanao since 2001, had installed many of his relatives into senior provincial posts.

Explaining the martial law move, the government said large numbers of heavily armed gunmen loyal to the Ampatuans had threatened to attack security forces and civilians if the clan chiefs were taken into custody.

One clan member previously charged

Ampatuan Snr and other clan members are accused of being involved in the November 23 massacre of a rival politician’s relatives, as well as journalists and other civilians.

One of Ampatuan’s sons, Andal Ampatuan Jnr, has already been charged with 25 counts of murder over the massacre. Police last week filed indictments recommending the clan chief and other relatives also be charged.

Police allege Ampatuan Jnr and 100 gunmen shot dead the occupants of a convoy that included female relatives of his rival for the post of governor in next year’s elections, as well as about 30 journalists.

After martial law was imposed, thousands of soldiers and police poured into the provincial capital Shariff Aguak and other Maguindanao towns to bring the Ampatuans into custody, as well as their militiamen and weapons.

Ampatuan Snr was among five clan members detained on Saturday.

A total of 32 people were picked up during Saturday’s raids, including 20 militiamen found in a warehouse belonging to Ampatuan Jnr.

Raids uncover weapons

The government alleged the Ampatuans had illegally amassed a stunning array of military hardware that it was prepared to use in the rebellion, and raids on Sunday continued to uncover hidden weapons.

About 40 firearms, including M16 assault rifles, were found on a property believed to be owned by Ampatuan Snr, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Michael Samson told AFP at the site.

The weapons were buried on a grassy area about a kilometre (half a mile) from a police station on the outskirts of Shariff Aguak.

On Saturday, security forces retrieved 340,000 rounds of ammunition, several assault rifles and a home-made armoured car at the warehouse owned by Ampatuan Jnr where the miltiamen were detained.

The biggest reported discovery came on Thursday when the military found what it said were enough weapons and ammunitions to arm two battalions, or 1,000 soldiers, buried in a vacant lot near the Ampatuans’ compound of homes.

Violence waged since 1970s

Muslim rebels fighting for an independent homeland have been waging a rebellion on Maguindanao and other parts of Mindanao island since the late 1970s. The conflict has claimed more than 150,000 lives, the military says.

Arroyo’s government has used Muslim clans such as the Ampatuans to rule these areas, and allowed them to build up their own armies as part of a controversial containment strategy against the insurgents.

However the government now insists it did not know the extent to which the Ampatuans had built up its own militia and weapons.

Andal Ampatuan Snr and Jnr, plus another senior clan member, were expelled from Arroyo’s ruling coalition a few days after the massacre.

2019
01/13

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Nadal beats Federer in Madrid final

Nadal, who will reclaim the world number two ranking on Monday, clinched a record-breaking 18th career Masters title, beating Federer 6-4 7-6.

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The win also made him the first man to claim three major clay titles prior to the start of Roland Garros.

Federer beat Nadal in last year’s final before going on to claim the French Open and Wimbledon crowns and snatching back the world number one ranking from the Spaniard.

Nadal now heads to Paris with all guns blazing as he bids to wipe out last year’s fourth-round loss to Soderling and resume his trophy chase.

Sunday’s eagerly-anticipated match in a packed and rowdy Magic Box arena graced by Spanish Queen Sofia was their first meeting since the 2009 title match.

Home win ‘a dream’ for Nadal

It sets Nadal up for a run at regaining his Roland Garros crown when the grand slam starts next Sunday.

Nadal brought the partisan crowd to their feet when he took the first set and the noise reached ear-splitting levels as their hero fought back from 4-2 down before throwing himself face down on the clay.

“Winning here at home is a dream,” said Nadal, who took titles over recent weeks in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would win all three of these big events,” added the Spaniard, unbeaten this clay season with 15 consecutive victories.

Nadal, now with 39 titles to his name, leads Federer 14-7 in career meetings, winning ten of their last 12.

Missed chances for Federer

He now stands 28-2 in claycourt finals, his two losses coming at the hands of Federer, including Madrid a year ago.

Federer missed out on chances repeatedly in the final, which lasted just over two hours, converting on only one of seven break points in an hour-long opening set.

In the second, the world number one twice recovered from a break down and once into the tiebreaker, took a 4-2 lead.

But four consecutive unforced errors meant a wasted effort, with Nadal claiming victory on his second of three match points, a Federer mis-hit.

“It’s been a wonderful event for me,” said the Swiss. “I’m sorry I couldn’t defend the title. Rafa’s had an incredible clay season, he was supreme today.

“I’m looking forward to Paris, I’m happy with my claycourt game, I know I’m not Spanish but I tried to play some clay court tennis here.”

2019
01/13

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Jetstar denies flights help Burma junta

Jetstar denies its flights into Burma are assisting the military junta and its human rights abuses.

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ACTU President Sharan Burrow says international companies are withdrawing services from Burma and those businesses that stay know they are abetting human and trade union rights abuses, including child labour and forced labour.

Burma Campaign Australia says the airline’s payments to fly into the country add to the estimated $US2.8 billion ($A3.23 billion) in “blood money” to the dictatorship.

Campaign spokeswoman Zetty Brake says Jetstar’s payments to fly into the country could be used to fund more than 700 soldiers a year, Fairfax newspapers report.

“Sadly doing business in Burma only helps keep the Burmese junta in power, providing it with the critical funds and resources it needs to maintain its brutal rule,” she said in a statement.

Airline fees ‘lining regime’s pockets’

Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan denies the accusation, saying Jetstar is happy to end the schedule if it thinks it’s harming the Burmese people in any way.

“Whenever we look at it and talk to the (aid) agencies that are in there, they say it’s a good thing. We are giving people access to get out and get education, aid agencies to get in there, and people reconnecting with friends and family,” he said.

Mr Buchanan told Fairfax he received a letter from the ACTU last week and has yet to reply, saying he’s disappointed the matter is now in the public domain.

Ms Burrow told Fairfax it’s a “myth” that ordinary Burmese can fly into and out of the country, and rejected the airline’s suggestion its fees to Burmese aviation authorities do not end up in the regime’s pockets.

She’ll join Burmese democracy activists in Sydney today for the beginning of a campaign to pressure Australian companies into withdrawing from Burma.

2019
01/13

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Uzbek election unlikely to yield real change

Voters in Uzbekistan flocked to the polls Sunday for parliamentary elections where all four competing parties are supportive of the government of President Islam Karimov, officials said.

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Over 17 million voters had registered for the vote to elect the 150-seat lower house of parliament, the Oliy Majlis, in the Central Asian state.

Tthe authorities sent millions of text messages to get people out to vote, with turnout reaching 87.8 percent by the close of polling stations at 8:00 pm (1500 GMT), a spokesman for the central election commission said.

Karimov has ruled Uzbekistan for the past two decades after becoming Communist party boss in 1989 under the Soviet Union and then its first post-independence president in 1991.

The president, who earlier this month described the elections as a test of democracy, said the polls showed Uzbekistan was “moving towards the establishment of a democratic society.”

“From this point of view, everything that has been done in this period, especially since 2000, has given a new impulse,” he told reporters including an AFP correspondent after casting his vote.

“No one should think that I am trying to show off something that does not exist,” he added. “I admit that in our parliament there is very weak control over the executive power. I think we should change this.”

Political specturm criticised by international actors

According to the central election commission, over 270 observers from 36 countries and missions of four international organisations are monitoring the polls.

But pan-European security group the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is deploying a smaller election assessment mission instead of a full observer mission, citing democratic shortcomimgs.

Uzbekistan’s “current political spectrum does not offer the electorate a genuine choice between competing political alternatives,” it said in October.

Geo-politics a key issue for Uzbekistan

The elections come as Uzbekistan is being increasingly courted by the United States as an important ally in the Central Asian region due to its strategic transport links with conflict-torn Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, tensions have flared between Tashkent and its former Soviet master Moscow over Russian plans to install a new Russian military base in the Kyrgyz city of Osh, which is close to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border.

In televised pre-election debates, parties mostly accused each other of usurping government achievements and programmes but also cautiously touched on corruption and unemployment issues.

“I’m going to vote against them all. None of the MPs have met with voters since the last elections” in 2004, said Rano, a housewife, 34.

Others however showed more enthusiasm. “I like the programme of this party and their ideas. There are many young people in its ranks,” said Mashrab Urinov, 22, a student, voting for the dominant Liberal Democratic Party (UzLiDep).

Uzbekistan formally legitimized factional opposition in the parliament after 2004 elections to answer Western criticism that there is no real political opposition in the tightly controlled ex-Soviet republic.

International rights groups criticized Uzbekistan for stepping up pressure on rights activists ahead of the election. But the authorities reject the accusations.

The number of seats in the lower house of Uzbekistan’s parliament was in 2008 increased from 120 to 150, with 15 seats automatically going to the country’s Ecological Movement.

The Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan was founded in August 2008 and is composed of activists from the pro-government environmentalist groups and health sectors.

Karimov in December 2007 won a new seven-year term in presidential elections with over 88 percent of the vote.

One of the world’s biggest cotton producers, with extensive gas and mineral reserves, Uzbekistan also boasts an ancient history including Samarkand, one of the world’s oldest cities.

2019
01/13

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One Nation member ‘promoting gay bashing’

Mr Groves allegedly promoted gay bashing in a tweet to Queensland Family First senate hopeful, Wendy Francis, who had herself faced online backlash over tweets equating gay parenting with child abuse.

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“U (sic) have a backer in me, love to do some Phoofter Bashing (sic) from time too (sic) time…” Mr Groves wrote in a public message to Ms Francis.

The tweets have since been deleted from the account, but have been circulating via the Internet.

The incident began when 30-year old computer programmer Nicholas Perkins criticised Ms Francis’ comments on homosexuality via the social networking site.

The account claiming to belong to Mr Groves sent a reply to Mr Perkins, accusing him of being a “Phoofter.”

A later tweet by Mr Groves, which SBS has obtained, further abuses Mr Perkins after the Queenslander rang to verify the account did indeed belong to Mr Groves.

“To the Phoofter (sic) Lover that (sic) rang me “Up yours,” the public message says.

Mr Perkins told SBS Mr Groves became aggressive and hung up after being quizzed on his public Twitter comments.

Calls to Mr Groves’ mobile were not returned, and other state members of One Nation were able to confirm Mr Groves does indeed have a Twitter account, but were not able to confirm his account name.

Pat Loy, Secretary of the Victorian branch of One Nation, told SBS any Twitter account used by Mr Groves was his personal account, and did not reflect the views of the party.

Ms Loy, a member of One Nation since its creation in the mid 1990s, says the party does not have a policy on homosexuality, but it was her emphatic belief that an individual’s sexual preference is personal.

“Where we stand on this is… everybody should be able to have their own way of life,” she told SBS.

“[Sexuality is] a person’s choice,” Ms Loy says.

“No one has a right to tell them how to live.”

Ms Loy told SBS that she would leave the party if they adopt an anti-homosexual stance.