Daily News Roundup

August 22, 2018

Image: ABC News

WEDNESDAY, August 22

Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership is in crisis, with 10 of his frontbench offering to resign.

The ABC reports that it understands Cabinet ministers Greg Hunt, Michael Keenan and Steve Ciobo, as well as Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge, are the latest frontbenchers to offer their resignations, but they have not been accepted.

Former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton quit yesterday after Mr Turnbull narrowly fended off his leadership challenge by seven votes.

He continues to keep pressure on Mr Turnbull by refusing to rule out another challenge, with his supporters saying it is likely.

International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells also resigned, firing a parting shot in which she accused the Government of straying too far to left.

Another five junior ministers have also offered their resignations, creating a reshuffle headache for Mr Turnbull should he accept. But so far he has not ag

The ABC says one source close to Mr Dutton who believes another two or three Liberals have drifted to Mr Dutton overnight.

That would leave the new backbencher just four or five votes short of the 42 he needs to seize the leadership.

The Prime Minister’s defence strategy rests on convincing waverers that a win for Mr Dutton means an early election that the party is not prepared for.

“We would be in an election by Friday,” one source told the ABC, saying the Coalition would start well behind Labor.

“We ain’t got the brass and we’re not battle-ready.”

Pro-Turnbull forces argue crossbenchers and potentially some Nationals would decline to support a Dutton-led government in a no-confidence motion, which would trigger an early poll.

Queensland Liberal MP Luke Howarth said he believed Mr Turnbull would survive the week, and that the frontbenchers were obliged to resign.

“If they voted for Peter Dutton, that’s probably the right thing to do,” he said.

Nationals frontbencher Darren Chester has raised the possibility he and some colleagues could move to the crossbench if Mr Dutton wins.

The ABC contacted several Nationals MPs last night but could not find anyone other than Mr Chester contemplating such a move.

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A Queensland strawberry grower has posted an emotional video to social media, despairing about throwing away drum loads of edible fruit because they do not meet retailers’ demand for extra-large berries as the season reaches its peak.

A spike in winter temperatures brought fields to peak production late last week, says ABC rural reporter Jennifer Nicholls.

In response, Coles dropped prices to as low as $1.00 per 250-gram punnet in New South Wales over the weekend to help suppliers move tonnes of excess produce.

The glut may be great news for strawberry lovers, but growers are counting the cost.

On Friday, Wamuran grower Mandy Schultz received a phone call from a wholesale agent to say he was not accepting anything but extra-large strawberries.

She walked through her family’s packing shed that night, filming the trays of rejected sweet, small fruit that had been emptied into drums for disposal.

“Our waste has hit such a crisis today … it’s just devastating,” Ms Schultz told her Facebook followers.

The dietitian launched her own waste-fighting program last year.

Titled LuvaBerry’s Our War on Waste, it saw Ms Schultz and her team freezing and freeze-drying excess fruit, that she then sold at scheduled meets in car parks.

But this time, on Friday, the freezers were already full.

“We are a farm that makes a really big effort with our waste, so what about the waste from the farms that don’t have anything in place?” Ms Schultz said.

On Sunday Ms Schultz welcomed more than 100 visitors to the farm’s first open day.

Families did their bit to eat excess fruit, picking assorted sizes of strawberries for $10 per kilogram.

Matt Garratt drove up from Brisbane to support the farm’s war on waste and expressed his surprise that size could be such an issue.

“I actually personally quite like small strawberries, I like them better than the large ones, so that’s a bit frustrating,” he said.

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Two days after a report detailed an accusation of sexual assault against #MeToo activist Asia Argento, the Italian actress and filmmaker said she never had a sexual relationship with the young actor she agreed to pay $US380,000 ($520,000) in a settlement.

Argento, who has alleged that film producer Harvey Weinstein raped her, said in a statement that she was linked “in friendship only” to Jimmy Bennett, a now 22-year-old Los Angeles actor who filed a legal notice of intent to sue Argento.

As detailed in a New York Times story published on Sunday, Bennett claimed Argento, then 37, sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room in 2013 when he was 17. As a child actor, Bennett played Argento’s son in the 2004 film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.

Argento said the $520,000 payment was undertaken by her then boyfriend Anthony Bourdain, the late celebrity television chef.

“Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect,” said Argento.

“Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”

Bourdain died in France in June. He has been a staunch supporter of Argento following her allegations against Weinstein.

A lawyer for Bennett did not immediately comment. But in a statement, Gordon K Sattro said: “At this time, our client, Jimmy Bennett, does not wish to comment on the documents or the events discussed in the New York Times article yesterday evening.

This daily news roundup is curated with stories from ABC News.

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