Germany pledges up $A536m in drought aid

German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner.The German government will launch a special aid program worth up to 340 million euros ($A536 million) to help farmers after this summer’s drought massively damaged harvests.

Agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner said she had agreed special federal government drought aid of between 150 million and 170 million euros with German finance minister Olaf Scholz.

Along with additional aid from German regional state governments, farms should receive a total of about 340 million euros in aid, Kloeckner said in a statement.

The association of German farmers DBV has called for around one billion euros in special aid to help farmers after huge crop losses this summer.

German crops wilted under the highest summer temperatures since 1881 and prolonged dryness. EU wheat prices hit five-year highs in August on concern about supplies.

Germany’s 2018 grains harvest is likely to fall by about 22 per cent this year after the heatwave and drought, the DBV said on Wednesday.

Dairy farmers were especially suffering from reduced crops of feed grains, straw and hay, the DBV said. Dairy farmers were being forced to reduce their herds because of high feed costs, sending more cattle to slaughter.

“I declare this year’s period of dryness to be a weather event with a national impact,” Kloeckner said.

If the existence of farms is threatened, they will qualify for special aid, Kloeckner said. It was believed that the existence of about 10,000 farms was under threat, or about one in every 25 in Germany.

In neighbouring Denmark, the drought combined with low pork prices, is expected to trigger losses in the country’s agricultural sector not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

The losses could reach almost eight billion Danish crowns $US1.23 billion ($A1.68 billion) this year, according to research institute SEGES, part of the Danish Agriculture & Food Council lobby group.

On its own, the impact of the drought is seen at around six billion crowns, it added.

At the beginning of the year, SEGES forecast a small profit for the sector.

“There is no doubt the drought has impacted so many farmers, that there will be more bankruptcies,” SEGES economist Klaus Kaiser told Reuters.

Denmark’s harvest of wheat, barley and rye could fall by about 40 per cent from previous years, the lobby group has previously forecast.

Liberals try to force Turnbull challenge

Health Minister Greg Hunt says he hasn’t seen a letter calling for another party room meeting.A small group of Liberal MPs want Malcolm Turnbull to call a party room meeting to face a leadership showdown with Peter Dutton on Thursday.

They circulated a letter on Wednesday night calling for the meeting, which would then lead to a spill of the leadership.

“I understand there’s a petition. I understand that a couple of hours ago there were nine signatures on it,” Liberal MP Jane Prentice told reporters on Wednesday night.

It was unclear how many MPs had actually seen and signed the letter and if any cabinet ministers were willing to shift their support from Mr Turnbull.

At least 43 signatures are required to bring on the meeting, which will be the second in a week after Mr Turnbull defeated Mr Dutton by 48 votes to 35 in a ballot on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Liberal whip Nola Marino told AAP reports of a meeting happening on Wednesday night were “completely untrue”.

It’s understood those pushing for the meeting want it to be held on Thursday morning.

Mr Dutton earlier on Wednesday confirmed he was still pursuing a challenge against Mr Turnbull, who chose not to accept the resignations of several ministers who voted against him.

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister James McGrath, who was a key supporter of Mr Turnbull when he brought down Tony Abbott in 2015, resigned from his position on Wednesday night because he could not support his leader.

“Our people feel forgotten, ignored and spoken down to,” Senator McGrath said in his resignation letter.

Social Services Minister Dan Tehan denied reports he had shifted support from Mr Turnbull.

“I’ve not resigned and I will not vote against a sitting prime minister,” he said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt, who was tipped to run as Mr Dutton’s deputy in Tuesday’s spill, said he was not aware of the letter.

“No I haven’t seen anything, I haven’t signed anything,” he told reporters in Parliament House on Wednesday night.

“The prime minister has my support, it has not changed.”

Liberal MP Luke Howarth said he hadn’t seen a petition, while another MP Warren Entsch said it was time to leave the leadership alone.

“We had a vote the other day, lets just move on,” he told reporters.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the debacle had gone on long enough.

“Whoever is the prime minister should visit the governor-general and just call an election and put them out of their misery,” Mr Albanese told Sky News.

Welfare energy payment won’t be cut

New pensioners have been assured they’ll continue to receive payments to help pay power bills.New pensioners will continue to get up to $7 a week to help pay power bills, with the federal government ditching plans to axe an energy supplement paid to welfare recipients.

Various coalition ministers in recent years have tried and failed to scrap the payment – which was originally offered as compensation for the defunct carbon tax – for incoming welfare recipients.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Wednesday the government would no longer seek the change, which has been stalled in the upper house.

“With the issue of energy prices being so prominent, we will not move to repeal the energy supplement,” he told reporters.

The government was hammered by Labor for trying to scrap the supplement during recent by-elections in the Queensland seat of Longman and Tasmanian seat of Braddon, both of which feature high levels of welfare dependency.

The prime minister on Tuesday told coalition colleagues the government was reviewing its stance on the so-called “zombie measure”.

The payment means an extra $14.10 per fortnight for single pensioners, $10.60 per fortnight for those with partners and up to $9.50 per fortnight for other single people receiving allowances.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said the policy shift will not impact on the budget as it was accounted for in a contingency reserve.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the backflip was welcome as every dollar those on the lowest incomes get matters.

The payment may have been established to complement the carbon tax but it is still needed now energy prices have risen, she said.

Dr Goldie said she hoped the government continues on the same track by raising other welfare payments.

“It’s an important opportunity for the government to reset its agenda,” she told AAP.

Port of Newcastle notifies EPA as crews work to control Kooragang fire

Port of Newcastle notifies EPA as crews work to control Kooragang fire Photo: Paul Scott

TweetFacebookInitial crews began fire attack maneuvers using two lines of hose and breathing apparatus to control the blaze.

Port of Newcastle chief executive Craig Carmody told the Herald that workers were dismantling a redundant conveyor system on the Kooragang No. 2 wharf, a general cargo berth used to load and unload various bulk cargoes including fertiliser and petroleum coke. An investigation will be undertaken to determine the cause of the fire, he said.

“Port of Newcastle is currently undertaking deconstruction works at its Kooragang 2 berth as part of its Newcastle Bulk Terminal upgrade. This involves the dismantling of the berth’s existing crane infrastructure, which is now over 50 years old,” Mr Carmody said.

“The fire was contained to a disused conveyor belt on the crane that was being demolished. There was no ship at the berth during the incident.”

Workers have been dismantling old cranes on that part of the berth for some time.

Workers were either oxy-welding or cutting when sparks from their equipment set fire to one of the rubber conveyor belts no longer in use.

Kooragang No.2 and the adjoining Kooragang No.3 operate under the name Newcastle Bulk Terminal.

The Herald understands the terminal’s operations were not affected by the fire.

A spokesperson for Fire and Rescue NSW said everyone on the scene had been accounted for.

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Scott Morrison offers tough love in spades

Treasurer Scott Morrison is emerging as a consensus candidate in an upcoming leadership contest.As the hard-nosed enforcer behind some of the federal government’s toughest policies, Scott Morrison has always liked to talk about dolling out tough love.

And Morrison may need to dish it out in spades if he emerges as Australia’s next prime minister.

Morrison was painted as a Father Christmas figure before this year’s budget, with the treasurer promising sweeping tax cuts and sweeteners for older Australians.

But it wasn’t always beer and skittles the evangelical Cronulla Sharks NRL fan was dispensing.

Morrison rose to prominence by spearheading the “stop the boats” approach to border protection as immigration minister to Tony Abbott.

His stance toward asylum seekers bewildered some observes, given his devout Christian beliefs.

But he professed a deep belief in the righteousness of crushing the people-smuggling trade and preserving the safety of those onboard rickety boats.

Morrison was elected to parliament in 2007. His electorate of Cook in the Sutherland Shire marks the point of arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay.

During a nine-month stint as social services minister, Morrison was also forced to sell the Abbott government’s deeply unpopular 2014 budget, which was laced with a cocktail of deep welfare cuts.

Morrison has been far more pragmatic in the role of treasurer, performing back-flips on a range of unpopular government policies.

Deeply unpopular measures including a Medicare levy hike, superannuation changes and big business tax cuts were each eventually cast aside like water off a duck’s back.

He also avoided falling into the trap of immediate predecessors of making outlandish promises about surpluses.

Morrison has always held aspirations to lead the Liberal Party, although he remains largely unknown by ordinary voters.

Prior to entering parliament, Morrison worked as a marketeer in the property and tourism sectors, before a successful stint as state director of the NSW Liberal Party.

He will need to harness the full bag-grab of skills honed in these two trades if he claims victory in an upcoming Liberal leadership ballot.

Morrison is going into the bitter contest as a “consensus candidate” who many hope will bridge a divide between the party’s warring moderate and conservative wings.

He is likely to split the vote of the party’s right faction and eat away at rival Peter Dutton’s support.

Whatever the outcome of the leadership spill, Liberal MPs will limp away from the ugly insurrection battered and bruised.

Losers will retreat to the back benches as up-and-comers clamber over corpses for cabinet posts.

Enemies will be baying for blood and recrimination plans quickly hatched.

It will be up to Morrison to repair the dented egos, broken hearts and despondent souls of Liberal colleagues left to rebuild a party reduced to rubble.

Nationals slam Liberals’ leadership crisis

Kevin Hogan and other Nationals MPs have slammed the Liberal leadership chaos as an “embarrassment”.Nationals MPs have slammed the Liberals’ leadership crisis, fearing punishment from regional voters fed up with Canberra’s chaos.

Kevin Hogan, who holds the bellwether seat of Page in northern NSW, is threatening to move to the cross bench if an expected leadership spill goes ahead on Friday.

He’ll still guarantee supply and confidence, but without his vote the government’s wafer-thin majority becomes more precarious.

“The community is fed up. My community is fed up. I’m fed up,” Mr Page told the Nine Network.

“I thought the one statement I can make is that I’m not condoning – implicitly or explicitly – this behaviour and I’m moving to the crossbench.”

He said while the Nationals were talking about drought relief, their senior coalition partner was focused on themselves.

“It’s an embarrassment,” Mr Hogan said.

Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester has walked back on his threat to leave the government benches if Peter Dutton seizes power.

“We want to see good government delivered in a long time in the future. We need to get united and focused on the issues that matter to Australians,” he told the ABC.

“I’m sorry for the Australian people their parliament have not met the expectations they set for us, over this time, we’ve had so many different prime ministers, we need to focus on the issues that matter.”

Nationals whip Michelle Landry holds the central Queensland seat of Capricornia by 1.2 per cent.

“I’m appalled by what’s happened, but we will continue on and work with the new leader, whoever that may be,” she said.

ASADA probe Magpies’ Murray over drug test

Collingwood defender Sam Murray could face a four-year AFL ban if an ASADA anti-doping investigation finds him guilty.

The Magpies have confirmed that the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority is investigating Murray, who is in his debut AFL season.

Collingwood also deny they have a culture problem, with Murray’s investigation coming three years after the doping bans for Lachie Keeffe and Josh Thomas.

Murray, 20, allegedly tested positive on match day for a banned illicit substance, with speculation that the drug is cocaine.

As illicit substances are considered performance-enhancing in match day tests, Murray faces a ban of up to four years.

Former ASADA chief executive Richard Ings said Murray would be in trouble if the investigation finds the Magpies backman knowingly took the substance.

“The challenge for a player testing positive for an illicit drug on match day is proving reduced fault,” Ings tweeted.

“You need to show that you took reasonable steps to avoid ingesting the banned substance.

“If you took it knowingly then you are toast.”

Murray was a late withdrawal from last Saturday’s win over Port Adelaide, with Collingwood citing personal reasons.

It is unlikely he will play again this season.

Apart from the seriousness of Murray’s plight, his absence is also a blow for the Magpies.

They are back in the finals for the first time since 2013, despite a bad run with injuries.

Murray has earned a Rising Star nomination and played 13 games in his debut season after joining the Magpies from Sydney.

ASADA last week reportedly made the 20-year-old aware of an elevated reading for an illicit substance stemming from the match day test.

News of Murray’s investigation was broken on the AFL website, but AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told 3AW he could not comment.

Collingwood released a statement after news broke of the ASADA investigation, saying they are committed to eliminating drugs in sport.

“We fully support all anti-doping policies and our athletes understand the rules in place. Collingwood has worked hard to develop a culture of professionalism and respect within its teams and we are making great progress,” said Magpies chief executive Mark Anderson.

“In addition to ensuring we comply fully with the ASADA process, we are also ensuring that we support Sam as a person.”

Murray has sought independent legal advice.

Three years ago, Collingwood players Josh Thomas and Lachie Keeffe were banned for two years after testing positive to the banned substance Clenbuterol.

Later on Friday, Anderson spoke in Perth a day before Collingwood’s game against Fremantle and would not go into any specifics of the investigation, the alleged positive test or Murray’s future at the club.

He also strongly denied that the Magpies have culture issues.

“The other incidents (Keeffe and Thomas) were some time ago … I’m extremely impressed with the people we have leading, and certainly the culture that exists within the club,” Anderson said.

“It’s true to say that all sports have gotten better at drug education (in the last three years).”

No apparent terror tie in France stabbing

French police are not currently treating a fatal double stabbing near Paris as a terrorist attack.A fatal knife attack in a town near Paris is not currently being treated as a terrorism case, the French interior minister says.

A man with severe psychiatric problems killed his mother and sister and seriously injured another woman in a knife attack in Trappes, west of Paris, on Thursday, officials said.

French police shot and killed the man soon afterward.

The Islamic State group, which has a history of opportunistic claims, swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack.

However French authorities weren’t currently treating the morning knife attack as a terrorism case, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said after visiting the scene.

He noted the attacker suffered from serious mental health issues although he had also been flagged for glorifying terrorism.

However, officials were not ruling out a terrorism link in the early stage of the investigation. The prosecutor’s office in Versailles, handling the case, said in a statement on Thursday evening that motive for the killings “remains uncertain.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Frederic de Lanouvelle said until the investigation advances it won’t be 100 per cent clear whether the attack at the family home was strictly a family drama or was linked to terrorism.

Collomb said the man killed his mother at her home and stabbed the other women outside. Still wielding the knife, he then ignored police warnings and was shot and killed, the minister said.

He described the man as “unstable, rather than someone who was engaged, someone who could respond, for example, to orders and instructions from a terrorist organisation, in particular from Daesh (Islamic State).”

Investigators remained at the scene hours after the slayings, taking a bag and satchels from the home.

“It seems, but I can’t confirm 100 percent because the investigation is continuing … that this affair is more a family drama than a terrorist attack,” de Lanouvelle said on the C-News television station.

He said the attacker at one point cried “Allahu akbar (God is great)”. He had lost his job as a bus driver for the RATP public transport authority several years ago for speaking incoherently and “in a troubling way” about Allah.

However, there also was evidence of family tensions, the spokesman said, noting the attacker had filed a complaint against his two sisters last year over an inheritance. The complaint was dismissed.

The prosecutor’s office said another complaint against the attacker, for defending terrorism, also was dismissed, in 2016, for insufficient evidence.

From Katherine to Canberra: a message

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Tennant Creek earlier this year. Photo: AAP Image/Dan HimbrechtsMemo to Mal – Maaate!

Greetings from the Top End.

Yes it’s hot here (wish those southerners would think of something original).

It’s Michael Gunner, yeah the Chief Minister here.

NT’s chief minister Michael Gunner.

You remember us? Crocs, barramundi, cowboy hats, and yes, it’s still hot.

Up the top – not the pointy bit on the right – that’s Queensland, and the round bit on the left is WA – we’re here in the middle sticking out into the sea.

You had a good belly laugh last time we talked and I suggested we should become a state.

Ahh, now you have it.The Territory.

Before you jump off the deep end today I wondered if you could consider the deal we made.

You threatened to sell us off to Bali unless we agreed to turn the place into Swiss cheese looking for shale gas as if no-one lives here.

Well we did, or intend to, allow fracking that is.

Most people still hate me for it but you reminded me that democracy was not always what people wanted, it was what they needed.

Well I need that cash you promised, cos I’ve sort of made some promises to the folks here.

We’re gunna miss the hat mate, you fit right in – not.

You told me the Northern Territory was basically a basket case, remember?

We receive more loot from Canberra than any other Australian jurisdiction.

About 70 per cent of my budget comes from you guys in the suits, half of it from the GST.

(Memo to self – find out what GST stands for).

So unless you ink some cheques real quick, jumping ship is not really in our interests.

I told the people here this week – yes there’s about 250,000 of us, about the size of Geelong.

Well, I told them I was going to pay them to stay.And I was going to pay them to come up and stay as well.

A bit like a bribe I suppose but we put some thought into it.

I’m just flicking through the beer coasters here – we write our budgets on the back of them, our best thinking is done at the pub, you know that.

We just don’t want anyone – we put some thought into it – we call it preferred professions.

Hairdressers, croc hunters, bartenders and oh yeah, chicks.

Sorry, you call them women down south.

Ahem, females aged between 20 and 39 years.

It’s not a sexist thing there’s just too many blokes up here.

We also want oldies aged between 55 and 65 years, we’ll pay them as well.

Why? Sober Bobs of course, someone to drive us home from the pub.

You’ll like the name – Northern Territory Population Growth Strategy 2018 – 2028, we went through quite a few beer coasters to get that I can tell you.

Anyway it’s probably going to cost us a few bob, and after paying the bar tab, we’re a bit skint.

Deals are deals Mal, maaate.

Cough up before you go, go

Don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo.

Hey, they could be good song lyrics.

Quick pass a coaster.

Katherine Times

Julie Bishop ‘our finest’ foreign minister

Malcolm Turnbull describes Julie Bishop as Australia’s finest ever Foreign Affairs MinisterMalcolm Turnbull has described his loyal deputy Julie Bishop as Australia’s finest ever foreign minister.

Mr Turnbull, who was overthrown as prime minister in a leadership ballot on Friday, singled out Ms Bishop for particular praise during his final press conference.

“Above all I want to thank Julie Bishop,” he told a large throng of reporters, staff and colleagues gathered in the prime minister’s courtyard inside Parliament House.

“She is a very dear friend – we’ve been friends for over 30 years.

“She’s been an extraordinary foreign minister – I would say our finest foreign minister – and she has been a loyal deputy and just a great colleague and friend.”

Ms Bishop served as deputy to Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott and Brendan Nelson over more than a decade.

The West Australian surrendered her position on Friday to enter a three-way contest for the top job and was knocked out in the first round, with Scott Morrison ascending to the prime ministership.

She will be succeeded as deputy by former environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg.

In his first press conference after seizing the leadership, Mr Morrison talked up the “rock star” policy and political contributions Ms Bishop has made.

“She has been an amazing contributor and a driver of foreign policy, and an advocate for Liberal values from one end of this country to the other, and one end of this world to the other,” he told reporters.

“I will be talking to her, obviously, about what role she would like to play in the government we will now seek to put together.”

However there is speculation Ms Bishop will decline a ministry and see out the term on the back bench.

She entered the leadership race as an outsider – hugely popular in the electorate but not in the party room.

Yet with her two rivals competing for conservative votes, Ms Bishop was considered a chance to snatch an unlikely victory by winning over the moderates in her ranks.

There was consideration she could also appeal to MPs in marginal seats at serious risk of being wiped out at the next election under a government led by Peter Dutton.

“Australians must have confidence that the government is focused on the daily challenges of their lives and their concerns and their interests,” Ms Bishop said before the contest.

“I am optimistic about the potential of our people and will commit all my energy and experience to ensure the best years of our nation lie ahead of us.”

She reportedly told colleagues ahead of the bout she would not serve as “another man’s deputy”.

Rather than directing her allies to drum up the numbers she needed, Ms Bishop phoned each and every Liberal MP directly.

Ms Bishop, who may retire from politics, would have been the first West Australian since John Curtin – who died 73 years ago – to lead the country.

The 62-year-old joined federal politics at the 1998 election as member for Perth seat of Curtin.

Media boss ‘given immunity’ in Trump probe

The chief executive of the publisher of the National Enquirer has been granted immunity by prosecutors investigating payments arranged by the US president’s former lawyer to silence two women who said they had sex with Donald Trump, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Another AMI executive, Dylan Howard, also received immunity, Vanity Fair magazine reported on Wednesday.

American Media Inc’s (AMI) Chief Executive Officer David Pecker met with prosecutors to describe the involvement of Trump and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen in hush-money deals with adult-film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal ahead of the 2016 US presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources.

Pecker is a longtime friend of Trump and Cohen.

Trump has denied having sex with Daniels or McDougal.

Cooperation with authorities by Pecker and Howard could further implicate Trump in connection with the payments, which prosecutors have said violated campaign finance laws.

Cohen, who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to campaign finance violations and other charges, said in court that Trump directed him to arrange the payments to avoid damaging publicity shortly before the November 2016 election.

Pecker and Howard corroborated Cohen’s account, according to Vanity Fair.

Cohen paid Daniels $US130,000 in exchange for her silence, according to court papers.

McDougal, who has said she had a months-long affair with Trump, sold her story for $US150,000 to AMI but it was never published, a practice known as “catch and kill” to prevent a potentially damaging article from being published.

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported, citing people familiar with the arrangement, that the Enquirer kept a safe containing documents on hush-money payments and stories it killed as part of its relationship with Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election.

The Associated Press reported, citing one person with direct knowledge, that the documents were removed from the safe prior to Trump’s inauguration and that it was unclear if they were moved to another site or destroyed.

Trump initially denied knowing anything about the payments. He later acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

In an interview with Fox News aired on Thursday, Trump said he paid Cohen out of personal funds and the payments were intended to resolve a personal matter, not to benefit his campaign. He told Fox he found out about the McDougal payment “later on.”

Under US election law, campaign contributions, defined as things of value given to a campaign to influence an election, must be disclosed.

Michael McCormack stays silent about Liberal leadership crisis

Riverina MP Michael McCormack.RIVERINA MP Michael McCormack has refused to speak about the disunity within the Liberal Party that threatens the Coalition’s hold of power.

Mr McCormack also did not commentabouthis position should the Liberal leadership changes, saying “I don’t comment on any hypothetical scenarios”.

“The leadership of the Liberal Party is a matter for the Liberals,” he said.

In a dramatic day in Federal Parliament on Thursday,Julie Bishop, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton are set to contend for the Liberal Party leadership, pending the outcomeof a petition for a leadership spill.

Former Health Minister Greg Hunt is the candidate fordeputyshould Mr Dutton gainthe leadership.

Dominic O’Sullivan,a CSU academic in politics, said that while The Nationals wanted “to stay out of the situation”, the party “is not pleased by what it’s seeing”.

“McCormack may well find a swing against himshouldDutton gain power and regardless of whether he [McCormack] stays as deputy or not,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“But I don’t think it would be a huge swing –it’s a very safe National seat,” he said.

Mr O’Sullivan said the whole situation was“obviously very bad for the government”.

“People, whatever their political or philosophical beliefs, don’t like disunity, and that’s what we’ve seen in the past few days,” he said.

Dominic O’Sullivan, CSU academic in politicsThe Liberals have shut down the Parliament and given up on governing Australia.My united and stable Labor team are ready to govern. We are 100% focused on delivering a fair go for all Australians. pic.twitter出售老域名/LGAzui01fq

— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) August 23, 2018

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