Daily News Roundup

February 21, 2019

Image: The Star

Thursday, February 21

American actor Jussie Smollett who plays R&B singer-songwriter Jamal in the hit Foxtel TV series Empire, has been charged by police for making a false claim that he was attacked in the street.

He was charged with disorderly conduct over his claim he was beaten up by two men who yelled racist and homophobic abuse.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted the news on Thursday after Smollett’s attorneys met with prosecutors and detectives.

Smollett had told police he was attacked by two masked men while walking home from a Subway sandwich shop at about 2am on January 29.

He said they beat him, yelled “this is MAGA country” — a reference to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan — hurled racist and homophobic insults at him and looped a rope around his neck before fleeing.

Police couldn’t find surveillance video of the attack but questioned two men who were initially deemed as suspects but who were released on Friday.

On Saturday, Mr Guglielmi said information from the men had “shifted” the investigation and that police wanted to speak to Smollett again.

Shortly before Chicago Police announced Smollett was now a suspect, on Thursday morning, Fox Television said the actor “continued to be a consummate professional on set” and reiterated that, counter to media reports, he was not being written out of the show.

Empire is an American musical drama television series created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong which debuted on January 7, 2015 on Fox. Although it is filmed in Chicago, the show is set in New York. It centers on a fictional hip hop music and entertainment company, Empire Entertainment, and the drama among the members of the founders’ family as they fight for control of it.

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The Federal Government says new legal advice reveals flaws in the so-called medevac legislation which could prevent authorities returning asylum seekers to Manus Island and Nauru.

The controversial bill passed Federal Parliament last week with support of Labor, the Greens and the crossbench, handing the Federal Government an historic defeat.

Attorney-General Christian Porter received the legal advice from the Australian Government Solicitors yesterday and now believes the legislation is badly drafted providing loopholes for those transferred to expoit.

The bill gives doctors a greater say on whether asylum seekers should come to Australia for medical treatment, although the relevant minister can object on national security or character grounds.

But according to Mr Porter, one of the amendments was not linked back to the relevant section of the Migration Act, which grants power to return asylum seekers once they’ve been treated.

“It is a terrible law, but this legal loophole is significant,” Mr Porter said.

“It means, in effect, you will be bringing people from Manus and Nauru, who are not in detention to Christmas Island, placing them in detention and with no lawful authority to send them back.”

Of the roughly 800 people who have been transferred for medical attention, before the new law, very few have been returned to Manus Island or Nauru with many appealing their cases in courts.

Mr Porter admitted the Coalition did not have the numbers to change the legislation.

“What we now know is that our Government is struggling to get the numbers on the floor of Parliament to have laws that we say are in the best interests of the Australian people,” he said.

The Attorney-General added that he would not be releasing the advice.

“We will certainly give a summary of the basic structure of the advice,” Mr Porter said.

“We don’t want our advice used against us in litigation if we find some way to return people to Manus and Nauru, we will use every power under our auspices to do that.”

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said he did not see any loopholes in the legislation and called on the Government to release the legal advice.

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A class action on behalf of mortgage borrowers was filed against Westpac in the Federal Court this morning.

The suit accuses the bank of irresponsible lending in home loans it has issued since 2011.

This is the first class action to be launched in the wake of the royal commission into misconduct in the banking sector.

The lead plaintiffs in the case are Ian and Michelle Tate, who were issued five loans worth $1.8 million.

Last year, the ABC’s 7:30 program revealed the Tates’ loans had been calculated using the Household Expenditure Measure (HEM), rather than assessing their actual expenses.

It meant they were granted loans they could not afford to repay.

“Dealing with Westpac has devastated us,” Ms Tate said.

Maurice Blackburn principal lawyer Ben Slade said the firm expected thousands of loans nationwide could be affected.

“Our current estimate shows there will be thousands of people and thousands of loans affected,” he said.

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Bangladesh says a teenager who was stripped of her British citizenship after leaving London to join the Islamic State (IS) group will not be let into the country.

Declaring Shamima Begum was not a Bangladeshi citizen the foreign ministry said there was “no question” of her being allowed to enter the country.

The ministry said it was “deeply concerned that she has been erroneously identified as a holder of dual citizenship shared with Bangladesh alongside her birthplace, the United Kingdom”.

Shamima Begum, 19, left the UK to join IS when she was 15 but now wants to return with her new born baby.

Her British citizenship was reportedly revoked on security grounds.

“She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh,” the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Ms Begum told media she did not know what she was getting into when she left and wanted to bring her baby back to London with her.

She told UK media she had only been a “housewife” during her time and said she “never did anything dangerous”.

Ms Begum said she did not regret coming to Syria but she had previously lost two children to malnutrition.

“When I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn’t faze me at all,” she told The Times.

In a statement on Twitter, the family’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said they were “very [disappointed] with the Home Office’s intention to have an order made depriving Shamima of her citizenship”.

Ms Begum’s relatives in Britain said they were “shocked” by her comments but thought she should be brought back and dealt with by the British justice system.

“The welfare of Shamima’s … baby is of paramount concern to our family, and we will do everything within our power to protect that baby, who is entirely blameless in these events,” the family had said.

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