This isn’t school, Cormann tells senator

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has avoided saying by how much the budget deteriorated during the second half of 2016, telling a Senate committee it was all clearly presented in the mid-year review.

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Under questioning from Labor during a budget estimates hearing in Canberra on Tuesday, Senator Cormann was asked for the total deterioration in the budget over the four-year estimates between the pre-election economic and fiscal outlook released in May and December’s mid-year budget review.

“It’s written on page one,” the minister said, referring to a table which shows individual financial years, but not a cumulative total.

Labor Senator Katy Gallagher said she just wanted the difference in aggregate deficits, to which Senator Cormann encouraged her to deduct one set of figures from the other.

“So you are just not going to tell me that?” Senator Gallagher asked.

“This is not a school class, the information is published very openly and transparently,” Senator Cormann replied.

Senator Gallagher asked the minister if he could confirm the aggregate deficit was around $10 billion.

Senator Cormann said the numbers were all published, reiterating it is “very openly and transparently” in the half-year budget update.

“Is that a yes?” Senator Gallagher asked.

“I’m not going to go around around in circles, the numbers are printed in the mid-year budget update,” he replied.

Taking Senator Cormann’s advice, the aggregate deficit was actually $10.4 billion.

It was only the first set of questions Senator Cormann faced on his primary portfolio.

It looks like being a long day.

Indigenous communities turn to renewable energy to break cycle of welfare

They came from near and far to a two-day National Community Energy Congress at Melbourne Town Hall to discuss tackling energy issues in their communities.

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Melina Loubicon-Massimo, from the Lubicon Cree First Nation in Canada, says her community has achieved incredible results with renewable energy.

“My community is severely impacted by fossil-fuel extraction, but we have decided to make our transition to renewable energy and have put up solar installations to power a health centre, a 20.8-kilowatt system,” she said.

It’s one of Alberta province’s biggest solar projects, and it’s built in one of the most unlikely places – in the heart of Canada’s oil sands.

The 80-panel solar project was developed in a bid to create more green jobs and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

But community energy projects are still in the early stages in Australia, says Kado Muir, director of the Katampul Aboriginal Corporation in Leonora, Western Australia.

“My community is going through putting on renewables, so, by June we’ll have panels on our roofs and battery packs in the buildings,” he said.

“We’ve got about nine or 10 buildings in a community of about 200 people, so hopefully by then people will be able to see a significant savings in their household budget.”

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He’s keen to help break the cycle of welfare via renewable energy.

“What we find is that the residents are on low incomes, socio-economic levels, and, therefore, a lot of their household expenditure goes on power,” Mr Muir said.

“And what we’re hoping to do with putting in, installing, the solar panels and the batteries is to reduce the household power expenditure.”

It has become known as energy poverty, where a higher proportion of household income is spent on energy costs.

In some remote Indigenous communities, household energy bills can reach up to $2,000 per quarter.

Installing solar panels can contribute to a 75 per cent saving.

Tom Nockolds, a volunteer with community energy organisation Pingala, says renewable energy will also provide an opportunity to upskill and make money.

“They create jobs at a much higher rate than any other form of energy, like coal-fired power stations, and so those jobs tend to be where they’re needed,” Mr Nockolds said. “There’s a great opportunity to create a local industry for these communities. 

“Someone needs to install the panels, someone needs to maintain them, someone needs to check that they’re working fine. All of those are opportunities for local jobs, and local jobs means money stays in the local economy.”

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He says community energy organisations like Pingala are hopeful of overcoming the hurdles to getting those projects underway.

“We don’t have the sort of supportive policy environment that’s required to make these projects a straightforward process,” Mr Nockolds said.

“Essentially, we’re sitting at the junction of the heavily regulated energy industry and a heavily regulated financial sector. Throw in the complexity of dealing with social housing and local Aboriginal land councils and all of the complexity and regulation that overlays across the top, and we can see that it’s very difficult to get that sort of project across the line (approved).”

But there were encouraging words from Ms Loubicon-Massimo, whose community in Canada has helped lead the way.

“(I) hope that other communities will be able to learn from it, because I know communities here want to transition to renewable energy,” she said.

“And so it’s my hope that, by sharing my story of our community, (it) will inspire other communities to know that they can be empowered to do the same and that it’s possible. And I think renewable energy is a beacon of hope.

“It actually is more in line with Indigenous philosophy and values, because it’s regenerative energy, it’s not extracted, and it comes from an infinite source, not finite source.”

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Insight: The Valley. What happens when a town’s major industry shuts down?

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Almond grower bullish despite profit slump

Almond grower Select Harvests has maintained bullish expectations on demand growth despite a plunge in half year profit.

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The company has announced it will buy South Australia-based Jubilee Almond Orchards and a 22 per cent stake in almond hulling and shelling facility Laragon Processing, for a total $26.5 million.

The acquisitions would increase its volumes by 1,400 tonnes annually, it said.

Select Harvests made a net profit of $11.6 million in the six months to December 31, a drop of 51 per cent from a year earlier, on the back of lower than expected almond prices.

“Current earnings momentum remains in line with our expectations,” managing director Paul Thompson said.

“Select Harvests is structured and managed to withstand and capitalise on short term commodity price and currency fluctuations.”

The company is one of Australia’s largest nut growers, and expects to produce between 15,750 and 16,250 tonnes of almonds in 2016/17.

That is expected to increase to 20,000 tonnes by 2019/20 under its expansion plan.

The company said the 2017 harvest is running two to three weeks behind schedule due to milder spring and summer weather, but growing conditions overall have been favourable.

It said prices have stabilised and increased from the lows experienced in the six months to December.

The nut grower also operates a food division marketing its Lucky, Sunsol and Soland brands, and has signed a distribution agreement in China for its consumer packaged goods that is expected to commence in March.

Select Harvest shares were down 15 cents, or 2.8 per cent, at $5.29 at 1310 AEDT.

WEAK PRICES HIT PROFIT AT SELECT HARVESTS

* Half year net profit down 51 pct to $11.6m

* Revenue down 24 pct to $126.5m

* Dividend down 11 cents to 10 cents, fully franked

Student attacks lecturer, other students with bat at ANU

A class at the Australian National University in Canberra has turned into chaos after a student confronted his lecturer with a baseball bat and students rushed to her aid.

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Police spokesman Ben Cartwright says the alleged attacker was an 18-year-old, white male.

“During the class, the student has stood up from his seat with a baseball bat and approached the lecturer at the front of the classroom. Other students in the class have intervened and attempted to restrain the student with that baseball bat.”

Three students and the lecturer were injured in the incident and taken to Canberra Hospital with serious injuries, including one with a broken arm.

Campus security and local police were quick to arrive on the scene.

Police say it is too early to determine the motivation behind the alleged assault, but they say the male was not known to police or intelligence agencies.

Some of the victims are believed to have been of Asian background, but police are not saying whether there is any indication the attack was racially motivated.

The Canberra Times has reported a spokeswoman for the Chinese embassy confirmed consular staff were meeting with the university, but the nature of their involvement is unknown.

The Chinese social-media site Australian Red Scarf says Chinese students were among the injured, which include two female students and one male student.

Ben Cartwright, the police spokesman, has offered few details, but says it appears to be an isolated incident.

“All indications at this stage are that it is an isolated incident. Everything is part of our investigation, we’ll go forward, but, at this stage, I can tell you the facts of the matter are that the student stood up at the back of the classroom with the baseball bat and approached a lecturer, where other students have intervened. And that is how the injuries have occurred.”

ANU student Alexander Vuong says he was due to attend class nearby a short time after the incident.

He says he arrived to find an ambulance and several police officers on the grounds.

“I got to uni at about 9:25, and my class is right next to where the incident happened. So I was sitting in the courtyard taking notes, and I saw about five police officers just walking around interviewing a number of people, as well as about a dozen ANU security people.”

Another student, Freya Willis, who lives on campus, says the incident has left many of her fellow students alarmed.

“I mean, I think everyone’s just really shocked and terrified. I think there’s not a lot of information yet about why it happened or any kind of details. We don’t even really know who was in the classroom or which classroom it was, and so I think there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear as a result of that. It’s very much that feeling of, I guess, an environment that you thought was safe, that you used to learn, like a classroom, then becoming a place of danger. And that’s really unsettling, I think.”

Deputy vice chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington has expressed shock over the incident.

“This was an unusual, a very, very unusual, incident in Canberra. We know one another, we care for one another, and our highest priority is to look after one another. Our thoughts are with, of course, the staff and the students involved in this incident.”

The ANU will hold its university Open Day tomorrow and says security will be stepped up for the event.

 

‘We’re a free society’: PM rejects calls to ban the burqa in public despite poll

The prime minister has joined senior MPs from both sides in cautioning against a push to ban the burqa, despite a poll showing half of Australians would support the move.

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“I am not an admirer of the burqa – I worry that it used as a means of oppressing women – that’s my reservation about the burqa,” Mr Turnbull told Neil Mitchell on 3AW radio on Friday.

“Having said that, in this country, we don’t tell people what to wear.”

A Sky News/ReachTEL found 44 per cent of people strongly supported banning the burqa in public places, while a further 13 per cent supported it.

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Of the more than 2800 people surveyed, 19 per cent strongly opposed a ban, 12 per cent opposed, while the rest were undecided.

Mr Turnbull said the federal parliament did not have the power to ban the burqa, but pointed out people were already required by law to show their faces for identity purposes in certain settings including court.

“But fundamentally we’re a free society and people can wear – within limits – what they like.” Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said his concern about the burqa was that it isolated women from society.

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“I think that is a dangerous thing,” he told Nine Network on Friday.

“It’s nothing to do with it being Muslim or any other kind of religion for that matter.”

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese conceded to being “uncomfortable” when the burqa was worn in public.

“I think people who aren’t from that culture are uncomfortable with it,” he said.

But he also warned bans doesn’t work.

“There’s a whole range of behaviour from people that have different cultures, different ethnicities, different religions that people might not be comfortable with. But that doesn’t mean you go about banning it.”

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who wore a burqa into the Senate last week, seized on the poll.

“Perhaps while the government are conducting their plebiscite on same sex marriage, we include the question as to whether Australians want to ban all full face coverings in government buildings and public spaces,” she told News Corp.

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Citizenship inquiry: Law Council warns new powers would ‘undermine the rule of law’

The changes are currently before the Senate and will need the support of the crossbench to pass, with Labor and the Greens opposed.

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Along with a new, tougher English test for would-be citizens and an exam on ‘Australian values’, the reforms would give the immigration minister new powers to overturn citizenship decisions from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

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“We are concerned that there is an erosion, a steady creep, which leads to an erosion of the rule of law each time you give the minister powers that cannot be overruled or reviewed by an independent umpire,” Law Council of Australia president Fiona McLeod told SBS World News.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton said the new powers would bring citizenship into line with visa laws, where he already has the ability to veto applicants.

“This is really just trying to align the arrangement in terms of citizenship with the laws that exist in relation to granting and cancelling visas now,” Mr Dutton said earlier in the year.

‘Silly’ citizenship decisions

The minister said the AAT had a track record of “silly” citizenship decisions. Cases could still be referred up to the Federal Court, he said.

But Ms McLeod said the AAT was designed to be a check on the power of the executive.

“We don’t know which cases he’s actually referring to when he plucks three or four cases out of the many thousands that the AAT decides each year,” she said.

“Many cases are cases where the government has made the wrong decision or failed to take into account relevant matters.”

The Law Council is among several organisations fronting a Senate inquiry in Canberra on Thursday.

Indian and Chinese community groups will also make submissions.

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Danish sub builder charged over Swedish journalist’s death

The last known photo of Kim Wall shows her standing on the top of the U-C-3 Nautilus submarine in waters around Copenhagen.

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On Wednesday, police announced that, using DNA, they had identified a headless torso found in the area as that of the 30-year-old Swedish journalist.

Danish inventor Peter Madsen, the builder of the submarine, has been charged with manslaughter and could face life in prison if found guilty.

The Danish Emergency Management Agency’s Kasper Groenningiverson says the search is continuing for further remains and Ms Wall’s clothing.

“It seems very accessible, as you can see, but, further down behind you, there are quite a few obstacles and other things that make it difficult to get in there. But we have people along the coast, and we’re helping the police with the search.”

Mr Madsen’s story has changed several times.

At first, he claimed he buried the young reporter at sea after she died in an accident on board the craft.

She had been writing a story about the inventor, who had expressed his desire to launch a space mission.

The 17-metre submarine is one of three constructed by Mr Madsen and one of the largest privately built ones in the world.

The 46-year-old had said at one point he dropped off Ms Wall on an island before being rescued after the 40-tonne submarine sank.

Copenhagen police spokesman Jens Moller says the evidence points to a different conclusion.

“We have secured a hairbrush and a toothbrush to ensure her DNA. We also found blood in the submarine, and there is a match.”

Danish officials say there was metal attached to the body and other attempts to weigh it down, and they say there are signs the limbs were removed on purpose.

The court has ordered Mr Madsen be held on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter as inquiries continue and have added the further charge of abuse of a corpse.

Under Danish law, there is no distinction between manslaughter and murder, while involuntary manslaughter describes a killing that is unintentional.

Mr Madsen will appear in court in September.

His defence attorney, Betina Hald Engmark, says he is pleased her remains have been found.

“I’ve only had a very brief moment to talk to my client for now, but I’ll be visiting him later today. But my client and I are only positive about the fact that a clarification has been made, that the body found by the police yesterday is Kim Wall, because then a clarification has been made regarding questions on that part of the investigation.”

The story has made headlines across Scandinavia.

Ms Wall had worked as a journalist in places such as Cuba, Uganda and Sri Lanka.

A candlelight vigil has been held at Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York in her memory.

 

 

Turnbull against burqa ban, despite poll showing support

Mr Turnbull has joined senior MPs from all sides in cautioning against One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s push to ban the burqa.

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Senior MPs from all sides of politics have cautioned against a push to ban the burqa, despite a poll suggesting support for the move from the public.

A Sky News/ReachTEL poll has found 44 per cent of people “strongly support” banning the burqa in public places, while a further 13 per cent “support” it.

Of the more than 2,800 people surveyed, 19 per cent “strongly oppose” a ban, and 12 per cent “oppose” it, while the rest are undecided.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told 3AW he is not an admirer of wearing the burqa but it is a basic freedom Australians are entitled to.

“It’s, frankly, not something the Commonwealth parliament has the power to do. But I think people in Australia are entitled to wear, basically, whatever they like. They obviously have to show their face when the law requires it for identity — so, when they’re in court or a police officer requires it to check identification, or something like that. But I do worry that the burqa, the full covering … it does appear to me to be a means of oppressing women, so that’s what troubles me about it. But I know there are arguments, you hear arguments, to the contrary.”

Attorney-General George Brandis has told Sky News there are situations where it would be inappropriate to wear a burqa.

“In certain circumstances, for security reasons. But as a general proposition, I believe that, in a free country, people should, subject to standards of public decency and the kind of exceptions that I’ve mentioned, be free to decide for themselves what they want to wear.”

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who wore a burqa into the Senate last week, has seized on the poll results.

She has called for including a question on whether Australians want to ban all full-face coverings in government buildings and public spaces in the same-sex marriage postal poll.

Greens leader Richard di Natale has told Sky News the burqa-ban proposal is simple scaremongering and should be ignored.

“What’s the problem here? We’ve got a tiny fraction of our community who decide to wear a particular form of religious and cultural dress. I mean, it’s a tiny, tiny group within our community, and the reality is that what we’ve got is a hate preacher in Pauline Hanson trying to spread fear and division in our community. What for? For her own narrow political purposes. There are so many other important issues as a nation we should be addressing.”

 

 

Danish sub builder charged over Swedish journalist’s death

The last known photo of Kim Wall shows her standing on the top of the U-C-3 Nautilus submarine in waters around Copenhagen.

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On Wednesday, police announced that, using DNA, they had identified a headless torso found in the area as that of the 30-year-old Swedish journalist.

Danish inventor Peter Madsen, the builder of the submarine, has been charged with manslaughter and could face life in prison if found guilty.

The Danish Emergency Management Agency’s Kasper Groenningiverson says the search is continuing for further remains and Ms Wall’s clothing.

“It seems very accessible, as you can see, but, further down behind you, there are quite a few obstacles and other things that make it difficult to get in there. But we have people along the coast, and we’re helping the police with the search.”

Mr Madsen’s story has changed several times.

At first, he claimed he buried the young reporter at sea after she died in an accident on board the craft.

She had been writing a story about the inventor, who had expressed his desire to launch a space mission.

The 17-metre submarine is one of three constructed by Mr Madsen and one of the largest privately built ones in the world.

The 46-year-old had said at one point he dropped off Ms Wall on an island before being rescued after the 40-tonne submarine sank.

Copenhagen police spokesman Jens Moller says the evidence points to a different conclusion.

“We have secured a hairbrush and a toothbrush to ensure her DNA. We also found blood in the submarine, and there is a match.”

Danish officials say there was metal attached to the body and other attempts to weigh it down, and they say there are signs the limbs were removed on purpose.

The court has ordered Mr Madsen be held on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter as inquiries continue and have added the further charge of abuse of a corpse.

Under Danish law, there is no distinction between manslaughter and murder, while involuntary manslaughter describes a killing that is unintentional.

Mr Madsen will appear in court in September.

His defence attorney, Betina Hald Engmark, says he is pleased her remains have been found.

“I’ve only had a very brief moment to talk to my client for now, but I’ll be visiting him later today. But my client and I are only positive about the fact that a clarification has been made, that the body found by the police yesterday is Kim Wall, because then a clarification has been made regarding questions on that part of the investigation.”

The story has made headlines across Scandinavia.

Ms Wall had worked as a journalist in places such as Cuba, Uganda and Sri Lanka.

A candlelight vigil has been held at Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York in her memory.

 

 

Hawks expect NBL grand final double boost

Illawarra Hawks are looking at a potential double boost for game two of their NBL grand final series against Perth in Wollongong on Wednesday.

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They expect to have import Marvelle Harris back from overseas and centre AJ Ogilvy capable of playing more minutes.

Harris missed Sunday’s game-one 89-77 loss to the Wildcats in Perth, as he returned home to be with his seriously ill father.

Three-time All-NBL First Team player Ogilvy logged just fewer than 20 minutes in Perth, after suffering an ankle injury in the decisive semi-final win over Adelaide thee days earlier.

“He (Ogilvy) didn’t do any further damage (in Perth),” Hawks general manage Kim Welch told AAP on Monday.

“He was a little underdone but he’ll come back for treatment tonight and we expect him to play full minutes on Wednesday night.

“We’re anticipating Marvelle to arrive on Tuesday and be available for the game as well.

“After Adelaide we sat down and mapped out that he could get back (home) and be back (in Australia by) Tuesday and that’s on track.

“But obviously if anything changes, we support him and what he’s going through now, so no rush.

“But he’s indicated to us he’s ready to come back and join the team, which is great.”.

Welch was also optimistic the Hawks would get more productivity from another import, the league’s Best Sixth Man, Rotnei Clake.

The sharpshooting guard was kept to just 11 points in Perth, around six below his season average.

Clarke averages around 13 field goal attempts a game, but took just eight shots in Perth.

“It’s no secret that we need Rotnei scoring closer to 20 points, which usually correlates to a win for us,” Welch said.

“(Perth guard) Damian Martin is a five-time NBL defensive player of the year so Rotnei is really going to have to earn his points this series.

“But he had a couple of quiet games against Adelaide and got us over the line in game three, so we have got plenty of faith that he will turn that around as well.”

Welch anticipated a sellout crowd for Wednesday’s game and hoped the Hawks fans would make the atmosphere as hostile for the Wildcats as Perth’s was towards his team.

“‘A five-point deficit can feel like 20 points there, so we’ve just got to turn the tables and make them feel that on Wednesday night here,” Welch said.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted but we feel we can turn it around pretty quickly and level the series up, so it’s definitely far from panic stations after last night.”

Terror suspect shot dead after West Java bomb explosion

A man shot by police following a bomb explosion in West Java has died, with police saying he was an ex-prisoner who had links to Islamic State.

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The man, who is yet to be named, allegedly let off a pressure-cooker bomb in a park in the city of Bandung at around 8.30am Monday local time (1230 AEDT) before running into a nearby government building.

Indonesian National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said the man was demanding that his friends, who were caught by the country’s counter-terrorism force – Detachment 88 or Densus 88 – be released.

Negotiations broke down and the man was shot after police say he allegedly lit a fire in the upper floor of the government block and “fought back” against officers.

He died on the way to hospital, General Karnavian said.

He thanked the public, saying they immediately responded by chasing the suspects who were on a motorbike.

“There was panic, one of them jumped off and went inside (the government office) while the other sped away on the motorbike.”

It is still unclear who the second person is but Gen Karnavian said the man was a former prisoner who was arrested in connection with a militant training camp in Aceh.

Radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir – known in Australia as the spiritual leader of the group behind the deadly 2002 Bali bombings – is currently serving time over his support of the same camp.

Gen Karnavian said the man had links to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, which was named as a terrorist organisation by the US earlier this year, after members pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

The group is also said to have been behind last year’s Jakarta attack in which eight people, including the perpetrators, were killed.

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It’s not the first time a suspected terrorist has been killed by Indonesian police during an alleged confrontation.

In December five people were killed during two separate alleged gun fights with police.

Densus 88, which Australia helps train, has previously come under fire by Indonesia’s human rights commission who say since 2006 around 120 people have died during operations.

Confusion, shocks, controversy at Oscars

The 89th Academy Awards was thrown into turmoil at the moment of its grand finale, with the cast, crew and producers of La La Land celebrating on stage but seconds later discovering there was a mix-up with the best picture announcement.

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Moonlight, following the life struggles of a boy raised by a crack addict mother, won the top Oscar of the night.

The problem was Moonlight’s director Barry Jenkins and his cast and producers were still sitting in their seats in Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre watching their jubilant La La Land rivals.

Warren Beatty, who announced the award with Faye Dunaway, said they were tripped up by what was in the envelope.

“I want to tell you what happened and it said, ‘Emma Stone La La Land’,” Beatty told the stunned audience.

La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz broke the news on stage when he showed the card with “Moonlight” written on it.

The La La Land group retreated and the Moonlight team took their place on stage.

“The last 20 minutes of my life was insane,” Moonlight director Barry Jenkins told reporters backstage.

La La Land’s Stone, who won best actress earlier in the night, threw more fire on the controversy when she challenged Beatty’s explanation.

Stone won the best actress Oscar for La La Land earlier and said she still had the envelope that contained her name.

“I had that card so I’m not sure what happened,” Stone told reporters.

Jenkins said Beatty took him aside after the mix-up and showed him what was in the envelope

“The card said ‘best picture Moonlight’, but there were two cards,” Jenkins, adding more confusion to the incident, said.

When asked what was on the second card Jenkins declined to say and told reporters, “We’re moving on”.

The ceremony, which included two wins for Mel Gibson’s Australian-made Hacksaw Ridge, already had its controversies, with US President Donald Trump regularly the brunt of jokes.

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, winning the the foreign language film Oscar ahead of Australia’s Tanna, stayed in Iran to protest Trump’s failed attempt to block citizens from Iran and six other mostly Muslim nations from entering the US.

A statement written by Farhadi and read at the ceremony said the seven nations had been “disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US”.

There was also drama when Australian sound mixers Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace and their American colleague, Kevin O’Connell, won the Oscar for Hacksaw Ridge.

O’Connell held the unfortunate record of having the most Oscar nominations of any person without winning, with his 20 nods stretching back to Terms of Endearment in 1984 and including blockbusters Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Twister, Crimson Tide and Spider-Man.

It was the complex war scenes in Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, filmed in Sydney and country NSW, that finally broke the drought with his 21st nomination.

“I wasn’t expecting it to happen, but I feel eternally grateful that it happened specifically because of the project that it was,” O’Connell told reporters backstage.

Wright, Mackenzie and Grace stood back and let O’Connell give his long-awaited speech on stage.

“It’s an incredible experience to represent the Australian crew and all of the effort that was done by everybody, but it is extra special to be standing here with Kevin,” Wright said.

Hacksaw Ridge’s Kiwi director John Gilbert won the editing award.

Australia had 14 nominations, but it was just the three sound mixers who were victorious.

Fences’ Viola Davis, as expected, won the supporting actress Oscar ahead of Lion’s Nicole Kidman.

Gibson was up for directing, but La La Land’s Damien Chazelle was the winner and Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) won the best actor Oscar ahead of Fences’ Denzel Washington.

Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali took the supporting actor trophy.

La La Land won the most awards with six, ahead of Moonlight’s three, and Hacksaw Ridge and Manchester by the Sea with two each.

Lion, shot in India and Tasmania, had six nominations but failed to pick up a win.

‘National calamity’: Shopping centre abuse reveals great Australian paradox

The hurt and confusion are audible in her voice.

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“What should I do then? What should I do then,” she pleads with the man.

“Why don’t you dress like other Australians,” he retorts.

The woman, dressed in a niqab, doesn’t know what that means, but the man continues.

“They dress with a f—— face, where’s your f—— face? What are you hiding from? F—— Allah?”

By this stage a number of bystanders at the Perth shopping centre have stopped to observe the exchange – none have intervened.

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“This is how I feel comfortable,” she tells him, before being told to “f–k off”.

The man paces off, another woman deigns to call him a d–head before he disappears into the crowd.

It’s exchanges such as these, caught on hidden camera for SBS program ‘Is Australia Racist?’, that highlight a distinctly Australian paradox.

Findings from one of the largest surveys conducted on racism and prejudice in the country have revealed that while 80.4 per cent of respondents believe it is a good thing for society to be made up of different cultures, 63 per cent of the sample also felt some discomfort with, or intolerance of, Muslim Australians.

Lead researcher Professor Kevin Dunn of Western Sydney University said the findings from the Challenging Racism Project were cause for alarm.

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“The level of negative feeling towards some groups in Australia is now too high,” he said.

“On the basis of this data and other data … we are facing almost a national calamity in terms of what is called Islamophobia.”

The study, commissioned by SBS and conducted by Western Sydney University, marks the beginning of the broadcaster’s Face Up To Racism week, a week-long exploration of racism and prejudice in Australia today.

And while 76 per cent of respondents to the survey expressed a commitment to personal action when it came to challenging racism, as this incident made clear, it would appear that as far as religious tolerance is concerned, Australia still has a long way to go.

– With Kirsty Johansen

‘Is Australia Racist?’ airs at 8.30pm Sunday, February 26 on SBS.

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