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Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins is suspended from the party

Hopkins, 76, has been MP for Luton North since Labour's election win in 1997 Ava Etemadzadeh, 2..

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  • Hopkins, 76, has been MP for Luton North since Labour's election win in 1997
  • Ava Etemadzadeh, 27, complained to whips' office and Jeremy Corbyn's office
  • She said: 'He hugged me and rubbed his crotch on me, which I found revolting'
  • He also served as Jeremy Corbyn's shadow culture secretary last summer
  • Labour spokesperson said investigation would be launched into 'allegations'

By James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline and Alex Matthews For Mailonline

Published: 16:39 EDT, 2 November 2017 | Updated: 14:24 EDT, 3 November 2017

Labour tonight appointed a barrister to probe allegations from a prominent activist that she was told to cover up being raped at a party event in 2011.

Karon Monaghan QC will investigate what happened to Bex Bailey as Labour scrambles to respond to the growing harassment scandal engulfing Westminster.

Jeremy Corbyn faced questions today after it emerged he had promoted an MP to the shadow cabinet after his office was told of harassment allegations.

Kelvin Hopkins was suspended from Labour over the claims last night but they were first passed to party officials three years ago.

Ava Etemadzadeh, 27, has said she initially complained to the whips' office about Mr Hopkins around three years ago. Mr Corbyn's office was aware of the allegations before he made Mr Hopkins shadow culture secretary last summer.

Labour also announced tonight it would soon appoint an independent specialist organisation for party members to report harassment. The party is discussing its needs with several external agencies, a statement said.

Karon Monaghan QC will investigate what happened to Bex Bailey (pictured) as Labour scrambles to respond to the growing harassment scandal engulfing Westminster

Karon Monaghan QC will investigate what happened to Bex Bailey (pictured) as Labour scrambles to respond to the growing harassment scandal engulfing Westminster

Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins (pictured) has now been suspended from the partyLabour MP Kelvin Hopkins (pictured) has now been suspended from the partyAva Etemadzadeh, 27 (pictured right) has said she initially complained to the whips' office about Mr Hopkins around three years agoAva Etemadzadeh, 27 (pictured right) has said she initially complained to the whips' office about Mr Hopkins around three years ago

Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins (pictured left) has been suspended from the party over allegations of harassment. Ava Etemadzadeh, 27 (pictured right) has said she initially complained to the whips' office about Mr Hopkins around three years ago

It is understood the 76-year-old politician was reprimanded for inappropriate behaviour by then-chief whip Dame Rosie Winterton when Ms Etemadzadeh.

Another complaint made to the leader's office last year is said to have been based on the same information so no further action was taken.

LABOUR SUSPENDS WELSH AM AFTER NEW ALLEGATIONS

Labour suspended a second senior politician in less than 24 hours today after Carl Sargeant resigned from the Welsh Government.

Mr Sargeant was confronted with 'allegations' about his 'personal conduct' by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones.

The AM, who was Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, said he was resigning to clear his name despite not knowing what the allegations are.

He was suspended from Labour less than 24 hours after the party in London also launched a probe into veteran MP Kelvin Hopkins.

Mr Sargeant said he was told about the allegations by Mr Jones but had not been given details about the claims.

'I met with the First Minister today and he informed me allegations had been made about my personal conduct, which was shocking and distressing to me,' the Alyn and Deeside AM said in a statement on Twitter.

'The details of the allegations have yet to be disclosed to me.

'I have written to the general secretary of Welsh Labour requesting an urgent independent investigation into these allegations in order to allow me to clear my name.

But despite the allegations, Mr Corbyn promoted his left-wing ally from the backbenches to serve as shadow culture secretary in June last year. He stepped down from the post last October.

Mr Hopkins, MP for Luton North, was only suspended by the party last night after fresh questions were asked about his conduct. He has yet to respond to the allegations.

Mr Hopkins is the first Labour MP to be named in the Westminster sexual harassment scandal.

Ms Etemadzadeh told the Daily Telegraph: 'I know the leader's office was informed and they didn't act on it, which is disgraceful.'

She said she met Mr Hopkins in 2013, and the following year invited him to speak at Essex University, where she was chairman of the campus Labour society.

She told the Telegraph that afterwards: 'He hugged me… held me too tight and rubbed his crotch on me, which I found revolting.'

He is also alleged to have texted: 'A nice young man would be lucky to have you as a girlfriend and lover … Were I to be young… but I am not.

'Always your friend, and if you ever need a friend you have my number… xxx'.

Miss Etemadzadeh said she thanked him for his 'kind words' to defuse what he had said. Mr Hopkins was unavailable for comment last night.

Mr Hopkins, who has represented Luton North since 1997, will now be the subject of an internal investigation.

Mr Hopkins, 76, has been MP for Luton North since 1997 and served as Jeremy Corbyn's shadow culture secretary last summer.Mr Hopkins, 76, has been MP for Luton North since 1997 and served as Jeremy Corbyn's shadow culture secretary last summer.

Mr Hopkins, 76, has been MP for Luton North since 1997 and served as Jeremy Corbyn's shadow culture secretary last summer.

Despite allegations, Mr Corbyn promoted his left-wing ally from the backbenches to serve as shadow culture secretary in June last yearDespite allegations, Mr Corbyn promoted his left-wing ally from the backbenches to serve as shadow culture secretary in June last year

Despite allegations, Mr Corbyn promoted his left-wing ally from the backbenches to serve as shadow culture secretary in June last year

A Labour spokesman said: 'On the basis of allegations received by the Labour Party today, Kelvin Hopkins has been suspended from party membership, and therefore the Labour whip, while an investigation takes place.

'The Labour Party takes all such complaints extremely seriously and has robust procedures in place to deal with them.'

Mr Hopkins was one 36 MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for leader of the Labour party in 2015.

Labour MP Jess Phillips told BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Hopkins should not have been promoted and the allegations did not appear to have been taken 'seriously' enough.

'There does seem to be a problem with some of the issues over the timeline in this case, and I think that potentially Kelvin Hopkins should not have been promoted,' she said.

Ms Phillips said she believes the case was handled 'perfectly well' within the procedures at the time, and that she has spoken to Ms Etemadzadeh who felt 'real solidarity' with Dame Rosie.

But she added: 'I am a bit concerned about the fact that Kelvin was then promoted afterwards, that does seem wrong to me. 'I think actually it's probably more cock-up than conspiracy if I'm allowed to say cock-up on the radio. 'I don't think that it was sort of political expediency; I think that people just didn't take it as seriously as it needed to be taken.'

Westminster is currently engulfed by a sex scandal, which saw Defence Secretary Michael Fallon resign yesterday.

In a resignation statement, the Defence Secretary, 65, said his past behaviour had 'fallen below the high standards we require of the Armed Forces'.

Theresa May was today forced to carry out an emergency mini reshuffle following Sir Michael's resignation, with chief whip Gavin Williamson installed as his replacement.

Mr Fallon's departure came after a explosive document, full of allegations against Conservative party members, was revealed.

Jess Phillips, pictured left with fellow Labour MP Stella Creasy at the Spectator Awards, said Labour will also need to 'clear out' its ranks of anyone found to have sexually assaulted or harassed peopleJess Phillips, pictured left with fellow Labour MP Stella Creasy at the Spectator Awards, said Labour will also need to 'clear out' its ranks of anyone found to have sexually assaulted or harassed people

Jess Phillips, pictured left with fellow Labour MP Stella Creasy at the Spectator Awards, said Labour will also need to 'clear out' its ranks of anyone found to have sexually assaulted or harassed people

Sir Michael Fallon sensationally resigned as defence secretarySir Michael Fallon sensationally resigned as defence secretarySir Michael Fallon with his wife Wendy PayneSir Michael Fallon with his wife Wendy Payne

Sir Michael Fallon (left yesterday) sensationally resigned as defence secretary (right with his wife Wendy) amid a growing Westminster harassment scandal

The dirty dossier runs to 42 names in total, and encompasses all levels of the Tory party.

It features six Cabinet-level ministers,12 lower-ranking ministers and some 10 former ministers, including a handful who served in the highest ranks of government, are also on the roll call.

But while a number of the MPs are alleged to have acted inappropriately, around 15 of the claims relate to consensual relationships or personal sexual preferences – without any apparent misconduct.

Labour has also been rocked by allegations – including that former NEC member Bex Bailey was raped by a senior official but told not to report it in case it harmed her career.

Labour MP John Mann has warned that a slew of other allegations could emerge as more women come forward.

Among the allegations are claims an unnamed senior Labour MP has been reported to the Leader's Office for abuse of a woman.

A second Labour MP is being privately accused of sexual assault of a woman – but they remain unnamed.

A third senior Labour MP is accused of 'wandering hands' and being over-friendly at student discos.

While The New Statesman reports other 'allegations of sexual misconduct that the party advised women to drop'.

While Labour MP Chi Onwurah told the Commons she had raised complaints about MPs' behaviour to young staff in parliament's bars.

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Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative

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In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.

The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.

But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.

So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?

‘Just paperwork’

Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.

Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.

The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.

Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.

Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.

Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.

Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.

It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.

“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”

But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.

Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.

It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.

Critics push for investigation

Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.

But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.

And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.

Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.

Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.

“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.

“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”

The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.

And she says the same transparency is needed here.

The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them

The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.

“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.

“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”

PM defends governor-general

Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.

“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”

Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.

“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.

“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”

A role fit for purpose?

Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.

She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.

“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”

Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.

“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.

“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”

But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.

“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”

 

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62683210

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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania

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A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.

Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.

The other driver involved was not hurt.

Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.

The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.

“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.

“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”

Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.

Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.

Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.

In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.

Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987

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Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos

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Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.

Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.

While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.

“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.

A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.

Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.

“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.

He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.

“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”

The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.

“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.

Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.

On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.

Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.

But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.

Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.

“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”

The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.

The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.

“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.

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