Daily News Roundup

March 27, 2018

TUESDAY,  MARCH 27

The Federal Government is expelling two Russian spies from Australia within a week, in solidarity with the United Kingdom over a nerve agent attack earlier this month, ABC Newsn reports.

The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister released a joint statement this morning confirming two diplomats had been identified as undeclared intelligence officers and would be “directed to depart Australia within seven days”.

Australia’s actions mirror the response taken by the United States and more than a dozen European nations in response to the attempted murder of a Russian double agent in Salisbury in England.

“This decision reflects the shocking nature of the attack — the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II, involving a highly lethal substance in a populated area, endangering countless other members of the community,” the statement said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull briefed Labor leader Bill Shorten about the expulsions this morning.

Mr Shorten said he was very supportive of the decision to remove the Russian diplomats.

Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement earlier today strongly protesting against the decision by other nations to expel diplomats, calling it unfriendly, confrontational and provocative.

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US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has demanded Stormy Daniels “cease and desist” after the adult-film star said in a television interview she was threatened with violence to stay silent about her alleged affair with Mr Trump, Reuter reports.

“Mr Cohen had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any such person or incident, and does not even believe that any such person exists, or that such incident ever occurred,” the letter sent to Ms Daniels’ lawyer by Mr Cohen’s attorney said.

A copy of the letter was viewed by Reuters.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, had implied Mr Cohen was behind the threat of harm if she did not “leave Trump alone” which was made by a stranger in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011.

The letter also demanded “that you immediately retract and apologise to Mr Cohen through the national media for your defamatory statements”, requesting that she clarify she has “no facts or evidence whatsoever” to support her allegations.

Ms Daniels has since filed a lawsuit for defamation against Mr Cohen and is demanding a jury trial.

Ms Daniels sued the President on March 6, stating Mr Trump never signed an agreement for her to keep quiet about an “intimate” relationship between them.

The White House and Mr Cohen have both denied Mr Trump had an affair with Ms Daniels.

Speaking after the interview aired on Monday (local time) White House spokesman Raj Shah said, “The President doesn’t believe any of the claims Ms Daniels made in the interview last night were accurate.”

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Brisbane’s proposed Cross River Rail has taken a back seat to two other major Queensland transport projects in Infrastructure Australia’s latest list of priorities, according to News.com .

The independent statutory body has listed Brisbane Metro and the Beerburrum to Nambour rail upgrade ahead of Cross River Rail, which the Queensland government considers to be the state’s number one infrastructure priority.

The Brisbane Council’s $944 million metro project is listed as a high priority, putting it in pole position to secure federal funding, while the $722 million Beerburrum rail link is listed as a priority.

The $5.4 billion Cross River Rail continues to be listed as a high priority initiative after Infrastructure Australia last year criticised its business case and called for a new one to be drawn up.

Both the Brisbane Metro and the Beerburrum Rail Link have the support of Liberal National Party figures, in contrast to the Labor-backed Cross River Rail.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, the federal infrastructure minister, talked up the credentials of both projects.

He said Brisbane Metro would ease bottlenecks on the SouthEast Queensland busway, and the Beerburrum rail link would greatly improve train travel times between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

“I am particularly pleased to see the addition of two major Queensland projects to the list following the assessment by Infrastructure Australia as having the potential to improve connectivity and reduce urban congestion,” Mr McCormack said.

But Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad accused Infrastructure Australia of succumbing to political influence.

“Infrastructure Australia don’t want to list it as a priority because the federal government doesn’t want to fund it,” she told ABC Radio.

The state government says the two other projects could only be effective if Cross River Rail went ahead.

Queensland has vowed to push ahead with Cross River Rail on its own and some preparation work on the project has already begun.

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