Daily News Roundup

June 21, 2019

AAP: Lukas Coch

Friday, June 21

Former Wallaby star Israel Folau has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $3 million to fight Rugby Australia (RA) over the termination of his contract.

The deeply religious Folau’s rugby career was ended after he posted on social media that homosexuals, among others, would go to hell unless they repented.

His contract was ripped up by an independent panel last month for a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct over his controversial social media posts.

Folau, a staunch Christian, posted on Instagram in April that homosexuals, among others, would go to hell unless they repented.

Earlier this month he announced he had launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against RA and NSW Rugby for breach of contract.

The 30-year-old recently appointed a legal team comprised of high-profile employment lawyers, including barrister George Haros and barrister Stuart Wood AM QC.

A statement from his lawyers said Folau was seeking “substantial remedies from his former employers should they be found to have breached the Fair Work Act in terminating his employment”.

A GoFundMe page for the 73-times-capped Wallaby player was created this week and as of 8:00am AEST on Friday it had raised $40,000 of a target of $3 million.

His statement on the page said that he would be “forever grateful” for having the honour and privilege of playing for Australia.

“I am also a Christian. My faith is the most important thing in my life. I try to live my life according to the Bible and I believe it is my duty to share the word of the Bible,” he said.

“Since my contract was terminated I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the support received from family, friends, fans and the public. Even people who don’t share my beliefs have defended my right to uphold and express them.”

Folau said he believed sharing the Bible “is an act of love and compassion”.

He said he understood that many people did not like or believe in the Bible.

“What makes our country so wonderful is that we have such a diverse community made up of so many different cultures and values,” he said.

“But my faith defines me as a person. I do not believe that it is fair or right that I be punished for my religious beliefs.

“As a result [of his contract termination] I have lost my job, my livelihood, and the ability to play for my country. It looks like I will never be allowed to play rugby in this country again.”

Folau said he believed his contract termination was unlawful, prompting him to launch his legal fight.

“In response, Rugby Australia have already said that they will ‘divert significant resources’ to fight me in court,” Folau said in his statement.

“Even if I win, Rugby Australia can appeal. There is every chance that a prominent test case like this could take years and eventually end up in the High Court of Australia.

“My wife Maria and I have already spent over $100,000 of our own money, and that was just to try and deal with Rugby Australia’s internal tribunal processes.

“The money I am asking for is solely to fund the rest of my action in court.”

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The US and Iran confrontation continued to edge closer to armed conflict today with President Donald Trump saying “Iran made a very big mistake” by shooting down a US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz.

But he suggested it was a foolish error rather than an intentional escalation of the tensions that have led to rising fears of open military conflict.

Asked about a US response, Trump said pointedly, “You’ll soon find out.”

The downing of the huge, unmanned aircraft , which Iran portrayed as a deliberate defence of its territory rather than a mistake, was a stark reminder of the risk of military conflict between US and Iranian forces as the Trump administration combines a “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions against Iran with a buildup of American forces in the region.

The drone – which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737 – entered Iranian airspace “despite repeated radio warnings” and was shot down by Iran, acting under the UN Charter which allows self-defence action “if an armed attack occurs,” Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said in a letter to the UN secretary-general.

Trump, who has said he wants to avoid war and negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, appeared to play down the significance of the shootdown.

He cast it as “a new wrinkle … a new fly in the ointment.” Yet he also said that “this country will not stand for it, that I can tell you.”

Shortly before Trump spoke, Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander of US Central Command air forces in the region, took a more pointed view of the shootdown in an area where Trump has blamed Iran for attacking shipping vessels.

“This attack is an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and free flow of commerce,” he said.

The Trump administration has been putting increasing economic pressure on Iran for more than a year.

It reinstated punishing sanctions following Trump’s decision to pull the US out of an international agreement intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from earlier sanctions.

The first US reaction was Trump’s Thursday morning tweet of six forceful words: “Iran made a very big mistake.”

But later, while meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said, “I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down.”

He said the American drone was unarmed and unmanned and “clearly over international waters.” It would have “made a big, big difference” if someone had been inside, he said.

“I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”

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Former schoolteacher Chris Dawson had just pleaded not guilty yesterday to murdering his wife 37 years ago when police laid a new charge of a sex offence involving an underage girl.

New South Wales Police confirmed the 70-year-old was charged with carnal knowledge over an alleged incident involving a 16-year-old girl in 1980 (two years before his wife’s disappearance) when he taught at a school on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

He was arrested just after midday yesterday after he left Downing Centre Local Court. He was released on strict bail conditions.

Detective from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad established Strike Force Southwood last August and began investigating a number of claims regarding alleged relations between teachers and students.

Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec said the charge was the result of information from “witnesses and people who’ve volunteered other information”.

“Can I say, all sexual assaults are treated very seriously. We seek to find justice for every victim, to investigate their matters thoroughly. Any other victim or any other person who has information, we encourage them to come forward.”

The charge of carnal knowledge refers to sex with a child aged between 10 and 17.

Last December, Mr Dawson was extradited from the Gold Coast to Sydney and charged with the alleged murder of his first wife Lynette in 1982.

His case has become widely known following an investigation by The Australianjournalist Hedley Thomas that led to the acclaimed Teacher’s Pet podcast.

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