Daily News Roundup

June 20, 2018

Image: ABC News

Wednesday, June 20

The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council accusing it of a “chronic bias against Israel”, a move that activists warned would make advancing human rights globally even more difficult.

Standing with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for thwarting American efforts to reform the council.

She also criticised countries which shared US values and encouraged Washington to remain but “were unwilling to seriously challenge the status quo”.

The United States is half way through a three-year term on the main UN rights body and the Trump administration had long threatened to quit if the 47-member Geneva-based body was not overhauled.

“Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights,” said Ms Haley, citing Venezuela, China, Cuba and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ms Haley also said the “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights”.

Washington’s withdrawal is the latest US rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

It also comes as the United States faces intense criticism for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the US-Mexico border.

UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Monday called on Washington to halt its “unconscionable” policy.

Rights groups have criticised the Trump administration for not making human rights a priority in its foreign policy.

Critics say this sends a message that the administration turns a blind eye to human rights abuses in some parts of the world.

Diplomats have said the US withdrawal from the body could bolster countries such as Cuba, Russia, Egypt and Pakistan, which resist what they see as UN interference in sovereign issues.

Among reforms the United States had been seeking was to make it easier to kick out a member state with egregious rights records.s

Ms Haley said the US withdrawal from the Human Rights Council “is not a retreat from our human rights commitments”.

Twelve rights and aids groups, including Human Rights First, Save the Children and CARE, wrote to Mr Pompeo to warn the withdrawal would “make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world”.

“The US’s absence will only compound the council’s weaknesses,” they wrote.

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An American tourist who survived a helicopter crash in the Whitsundays, which killed her mother and stepfather, will be reunited with her bag after it washed up 1,000 kilometres away on Cape York Peninsula.

John ‘Pete’ Hansel, 79, and his wife Sue, 65, from Kailua-Kona in Hawaii were killed on their honeymoon when the Whitsunday Air Services helicopter crashed near the Hardy Reef Pontoon in March.

Sue Hansel’s 33-year-old daughter and her 34-year-old husband were also on board but avoided serious injury.

Nearly three months later, Hope Vale couple Philip and Reshmi Morris stumbled upon the woman’s bag washed up at a beach at Cape Flattery on Cape York Peninsula, reports the ABC.

“It had a purse and a book and a jacket, a camera and a couple of other things in it, and I could see they were covered in sand and obviously they were wet,” Mr Morris said.

Mrs Morris, who made the initial find, believed the bag had fallen from a cruise ship.

The couple tracked down the bag’s owner on social media to inform her of their find, only to discover she had been in the helicopter crash in March.

“I got a message from the girl saying that she’d got the message and was very excited and thought it’s unbelievable the bag’s turned up so far away,” Mr Morris said.

“Never even entered my head this could be from the helicopter crash because that happened at least 1,000 kilometres south of us so you wouldn’t imagine that something could drift that far through all that reef to end up where it did.

“So when we did find out, obviously it made it more important, because we both wanted some closure for this lady and help out in any way we could.”

Mr Morris said he received a phone call from Whitsunday Police after the woman contacted investigators, and he took the bag straight to the nearest police station at Hope Vale.

“It’s been such a tragic loss for the girl. Not only did she lose family members but she lost personal belongings and I guess the most important thing for me was returning the camera with photos on it because they can’t be replaced,” Mr Morris said.

“Maybe other people can keep an eye out for some of the items.

“Her mum’s purse and a few other personal items are missing and I’m sure that would mean the world to her to get those back.”

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Thousands of Telstra employees are facing job losses, as the company announces an overhaul.

Telstra said it is targeting a further $1 billion in cost cutting by the 2022 financial year, taking total cost reductions to $2.5 billion.

The telco said there would be an net reduction of 8,000 employees and contractor positions.

It said those positions would largely be drawn from management, with one-in-four executive and middle management positions to go.

Telstra’s chief executive Andy Penn said the company had to take drastic action to stay on top in an increasingly competitive telecommunications market, reports the ABC.

“We are now at a tipping point where we must act more boldly if we are to continue to be the nation’s leading telecommunications company,” he noted in a statement to the share market.

“We are creating a new Telstra that is able to continue to lead the market.

“In the future our workforce will be a smaller, knowledge-based one with a structure and way of working that is agile enough to deal with rapid change.”

Telstra said it will achieve part of the cost saving by switching customers from 1,800 current consumer and small business plans to just 20 plans.

It also aims to eliminate the need for two thirds of customer service calls within the next two years.

Despite the massive cost cutting, Telstra insists it will remain a “premium” telecommunications brand and lead in the roll-out of 5G mobile networks.

The other major aspects of Mr Penn’s plan are up to $2 billion in asset sales over the next two years and the structural separation of Telstra into “InfraCo” and retail businesses from July 1.

InfraCo will be wholly-owned by Telstra, at least initially, but would provide the ability to demerge it and sell it off or attract a strategic investor.

The infrastructure company will control all of Telstra’s fixed network infrastructure, not mobile, including data centres, non-mobile-related fibre networks, copper, HFC cables, international subsea cables, exchanges, poles, ducts and pipes.

Its services will be sold to wholesale customers and NBN Co and Telstra said InfraCo will have an initial book value of around $11 billion.

This news roundup is curated with stories from ABC News.

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