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September, 2018

Blood Diamond link for Aussie in one of world’s biggest scandals

It was March 2008 when an Australian banker flew into Harare International Airport as electoral unrest in the Zimbabwean capital threatened to boil over.
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But Vanja Baros, a London-based employee of $US34 billion ($43 billion) New York hedge fund Och-Ziff, was not involved with the latest trials of this broken country.

He was there to cut a deal with an executive from a London-based miner.

The executive had connections to government officials in the mineral-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He was renowned as an “influential and dangerous man” who had been wanted for arms trafficking, fraud and bribery.

At the time the executive worked for notorious Israeli businessman Dan Gertler, the inspiration for the movie Blood Diamond.

The deal Baros wanted to present, prosecutors now claim, was simple.

Och-Ziff’s African-focused investment funds would pump $150 million into Gertler’s company to be used for greasing government palms in the Congo.

The transaction would have huge consequences beyond the massive corruption case launched by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last year.

The SEC alleges Baros, along with his boss Michael Cohen, orchestrated $400 million-plus in bribes and “strategic investments” to secure government favours in no fewer than seven African countries.

A few months after the meeting with Gertler’s offsider, Robert Mugabe’s machine-gun toting supporters were rioting to maintain his iron grip of the country.

Court documents reveal it was then Baros and Cohen received a worrying message from a South African businessman who was familiar with the deal.

The SEC has prosecuted Och-Ziff

Approximately $100 million of the company’s money had allegedly “paid 4 arms into zim and rented boat from China” to stamp out the support for Mugabe’s opponent Morgan Tsvangirai, according to a message that has surfaced in court documents.

It’s quite the place for a Melbourne-raised man who was then just into his 30s.

But it wasn’t just Mugabe who allegedly ended up with Och-Ziff investors’ cash. Monies arranged through the Och-Ziff alleged bribery scheme also flowed into the bank accounts of officials and agents.

That included Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of then Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libya’s dictator, after his capture in November 2011. Photo: AP

In return for a series of secret payments allegedly orchestrated by Cohen and Baros, who between 2007 and 2013 worked at Och-Ziff as an analyst and director of its African investment arm, various agents worked their magic in securing government favours, including buying state-seized assets and lucrative mining rights in far-flung African mining locales.

???The alleged payments then allowed Och-Ziff’s agents and associates to splash out on shopping trips to Paris, private jets and, in one case, a multi million-dollar super yacht.

Earlier this year, Och-Ziff forked out more than $US400 million in fines after admitting to breaching America’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Now the SEC is seeking individual penalties and disgorgement orders against Baros and Cohen in a case that could cost the men in excess of $100 million.

“Beginning in 2007 and continuing through at least August 2012, Cohen and Baros executed a sprawling scheme involving serial corrupt transactions and bribes paid to high ranking government officials in African countries, including the State of Libya, the Republics of Chad, Niger and Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the “DRC”),” the SEC alleges in an amended statement of claim filed earlier this year.

The alleged bribes secured a uranium mining licence in Niger, mining and oil exploration licences in Chad, state-seized mining assets in the DRC, mining assets in Guinea, a stake in an oil field off the coast of Conga-Brazzaville and a $300 million investment in Och-Ziff’s hedge funds from Libya’s state-owned investment authority.

“Cohen spearheaded and participated in all of the corrupt transactions. Baros began working with Cohen at Och-Ziff in 2007 and participated in multiple corrupt transactions that were part of the scheme,” the SEC alleges.

Further, it is alleged that Baros and Cohen omitted corruption warnings from external reporting agencies to get their deals past Och-Ziff legal. Other times, it is alleged, Cohen and Baros successfully lobbied senior Och-Ziff personnel to approve specific corrupt transactions.

Yet supporters of Baros argue he was just an analyst working under direction.

He ran spreadsheets and crunched numbers, they say.

He analysed deals and assets. He did not make deals. He did not pay bribes. He did not participate in any corrupt dealings. He will vigorously defend the case.

And the SEC version of events in Zimbabwe is understood to stand at odds with that of the Baros camp.

Far from a high-level meeting, Baros is believed to have met the man at an innocuous meeting organised by a resources analyst from a US investment bank.

And it is also important to note that the SEC has had some bruising court losses in recent years, particularly when they have litigated against individuals.

To defend him, Baros has hired a crack team of lawyers in New York from Cohen & Gresser, which has notched up some significant victories against the SEC most notably on behalf of trader Peter Black.

While much is known of Baros’ alleged activities in Africa, not much is known about Baros back in Australia.

Born in Bosnia in 1975, Baros appears to have spent his adolescent years in the eastern Melbourne suburb of Vermont South.

He graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1998 with a commerce degree before moving to Sydney.

Baros primed his knowledge of African business dealings while at Deutsche Bank’s Australian arm where he specialised in natural resources investments and worked as an associate in the bank’s corporate finance division. In 2006, he took up a job as an analyst in Deutsche Bank’s London office.

UK company records show he lived in a townhouse in the flash Notting Hill area in London not far from the famed Portobello Market.

After joining Och-Ziff in late 2007, Baros’ primary responsibilities at Och-Ziff related to the management of two funds set up to invest in natural resources and mining assets in Africa.

The SEC alleges that investor money from these two funds facilitated the “sprawling scheme” set up by Cohen with the aid of Baros.

On leaving Och-Ziff in 2013, Baros continued to work in the mining investment game, including closely with Jan Kulczyk, a billionaire who up until his 2016 death was Poland’s richest man.

This included working at QKR Corp, a London-based mining investment company jointly owned by the Qatar Investment Authority and Kulczyk’s business interests alongside ex JP Morgan banker Lloyd Pengilly.

Baros was also director to two other mining vehicles controlled by Kulczyk including Africa-focused miner Loon Energy and Toronto-listed Serinus Energy until his resignation in 2016.

Baros was also listed as a director of the lifestyle advice and product platform Who Loves You, a business run by the daughter of Lloyd Pengilly, Marina, until his resignation in 2015.

Emails to Serinus, Kulczyk and Loon Energy from Fairfax Media went unanswered.

In the wake of the SEC allegations, Baros joins a line of Australian businessmen who are accused of breaching sanctions and breaking bribery and corruption laws.

Rio Tinto faces allegations of bribery in Guinea.

Former Leighton executive Peter Gregg has been accused by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission of being involved in corrupt payments – an allegation he strenuously denies and is vigorously defending. Sundance Energy has also been subject to a corruption investigation over its dealings in Africa and Rio Tinto is also being probed over its dealings to secure the Simandou mine in Guinea.

Indeed, Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who has been locked in a legal battle with Rio Tinto over Simandou for years, seized on the alleged $25 million payment arranged by Cohen and Baros to the Guinean government as proof his business interests were robbed of the lucrative iron ore deposit.

Last month, Baros applied to have the matter dismissed on statute grounds that could see the matter dropped entirely or reduce the penalties Baros can face to zero dollars after a hearing in the coming months.

His legal team will also argue at the hearing that the SEC lack jurisdictional grounds over the alleged business activities of a London-based Australian citizen in African countries.

Baros’ lawyer Mark S. Cohen said in a statement: “Vanja Baros is a highly respected professional with an exemplary record of service and integrity. The allegations in the SEC’s complaint about Mr Baros are without basis. When the facts come out, it will be clear that Mr Baros did nothing wrong.”

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

No royal treatment for Trump in UK: report

Donald Trump’s long-anticipated state visit to the UK has been stripped down to a ‘working visit’ in early 2018 that won’t include tea with the Queen, according to media reports.
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It will likely be one stop on a tour of several countries, the Evening Standard reported on Wednesday, and will focus on global security discussions.

The president may also cut the ribbon on the new US embassy, the Standard reported.

However he will not sleep at Buckingham Palace as the guest of the Queen, and there will not be a glitzy banquet in his honour.

The report said a future state visit had not been ruled out, but no date had been set.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr Trump had accepted an invite for a state visit, but that her office was not aware of any discussions relating to a separate working visit.

In January Mrs May visited the White House and offered Mr Trump a state visit as a guest of the Queen: a move interpreted as a signal of the continuing ‘special relationship’ between the two countries.

It was immediately criticised as a breach of convention, as state visits are usually reserved for a president’s second term.

House of Commons speaker John Bercow said he would oppose the president being invited to give an address in Westminster Hall, citing the president’s controversial travel ban and saying “opposition to racism and sexism” were important considerations.

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “not sure it is appropriate for our government to roll out the red carpet” for Mr Trump, but was reported to be open to a working visit. Any encounter between the two would likely be frosty, after Mr Trump publicly berated the mayor over his response to the London Bridge terror attack.

There was also a public backlash, with almost two million people signing a petition saying the US president’s “well documented misogyny and vulgarity” disqualified him from an audience with the Queen.

The visit was also likely to see widespread protests. The Stop the War Coalition has told supporters they “need to make sure that there are protests whenever and wherever he appears”, urging “the biggest possible mobilisation at Downing Street”.

MPs, celebrities and trade unionists formed a “Stop Trump Coalition” vowing “one of the biggest demonstrations in British history to make very clear??? that this is not in our name”.

Since then the visit has been quietly put on the backburner.

Over the summer The Guardian reported that Mr Trump told Mrs May in a phone call he wanted to put the trip on hold until the British public supported it.

However a White House spokesperson denied the topic had been discussed.

In the meantime Mr Trump has visited Emmanuel Macron in Paris for Bastille Day festivities, held talks with Angela Merkel in Hamburg, toured the Vatican and met the Pope, visited Belgium’s King Philippe at the Royal palace in Brussels and held talks with European Union leaders at their headquarters.

In July there was speculation that Mr Trump would visit his Scottish golf course and then Downing Street after the G20 summit in Hamburg, as part of a European trip that included a big speech in Warsaw.

However the speculation came to nothing.

When Downing St is pressed to expand on plans for the state visit, it repeatedly responds “we extended an invitation that was accepted but no date has been set”. This was still the position on Wednesday.

A former adviser to the Obama administration said recently that US officials regarded the idea of a special relationship with Britain as a joke.

Jeremy Shapiro claimed President Trump was “exploiting” Britain’s romantic view of the special relationship to get a post-Brexit trading deal that benefited America.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Sensitivity training after women’s grand final nudie run

MEMBERS of the Bathurst Bushrangers AFL club will undergo sensitivitytraining after female players who failed to kicka goal in the 2017 season were sent ona nudie run -some against their will -at the club’s post-premiership celebrations last month.
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The women’s teamwon their grand final match on September 2 and at the post-match celebrations held at the club, any female players who had not kicked a goal this yearhad to run around the oval naked.

A complaint wasmade to AFL NSWwho investigated the matterand confirmed that members at the club would undergo education and training to prevent it happening again.

AFL NSW said onWednesday their investigations revealedsome of the players didn’t feel comfortable about the incident. Others said they felt pressured while some participated in the nudie run voluntarily.

The spokesperson said the incident was not intendedto offend, intimidate or humiliate anyonebut was insteada poor error of judgment.

“But if one person feels uncomfortable, that’s oneperson too many,” the spokespersonsaid.

As this is the first reported incident against the club, which was described by AFL NSW as a significant driver of AFL in the region, as well as the most successful club, both on and off the field, no disciplinary action will be taken, instead its members will be educated to prevent a similar incident occurring.

AFL NSW said the incident wasnot behaviouritcondones.

“AFL NSW prides itself on the inclusion of everyone; particularly women,” the spokesperson said.

“It’svery importantthe game engages with females in both an administrative and playing sense.

“We strive to provide a community environment and this behavior doesn’t hold up. We have moved past this, this behaviour is not acceptable.”

AFL NSW said it had taken statements from the club and those who were involved.

“The club has beenvery co-operative. Ultimately it has been determinedthat the conduct is not what we would expect.

“We’ve beenworking with club directlyand educatorsfrom AFL NSW will work with its membersto make sure this doesn’t happen againandthey understand the impact something like this can have on individuals.”

AFL NSW has also responded to other incidents across the stateincluding racial discrimination and homophobia.

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Making sense of a tragedy

Memories: Jordi Bates at Shepherds Hill, where he married Jennifer Bates.Picture: Simone De PeakLed Zeppelin is blaring through the speakers over the clatter of cups and dishes being gathered for washing. It’s late on a Friday afternoon at Bank Corner Cafe in Newcastle West and staff are hustling to finish the work day.
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But Jordi Bates isn’t paying any attention. We’re deep in conversation, about the day his life changed forever.

December 14, 2016. The day his wife, Jennifer Bates,on a Vespa scooter, waiting to proceed around the Cowper Street roundabout in Wickham, died in a collision with a vehicle.

The alleged driver of the vehicle has been charged with manslaughterand the matter is still before the court.

“It’s just an awful thing to think about and remember,” Jordi says. “Every day Ithink about that morningand what happened.”

“When you think of where she got hit and how she got hit, you know, we are talking a matter of one to two seconds probably,” Bates says in answer to a question about how he remembers that fateful day.

“If she’d been two seconds later she would have been behind that spot where the driver came through. If she was two seconds earlier, she would have been in front of that spot, she would have been into the roundabout.

“She was in exactly the wrong spot at exactly the wrong time.”

Happy grads: Jennifer Bates, in traditional Bhutanese dress, and Jordi Bates on the day they received postgraduate degrees at the University of Newcastle.

A FULL LIFEJordi Bates, on his wife’s tragic deathTHE COUPLEJennifer met Jordi in Sydney in 2003. When they met, they were both living in the inner-cityGlebe, working in Pyrmont, and involvedin dragonboatingand salsa dancing. Almost inevitably, they became a pair.

Their journey together had twists and turns –Jen spent her fourth year of university in Tasmania; they both spent a year volunteering abroad, but in different countries, with Jennifer in the Philippines and Jordi in Vietnam.

But eventually, they settled down in Newcastle, buying a home in Wickham.

They were far from finished in terms of travel, visitingEurope, New Zealand, Japan, South-East Asia,India andFiji.

And they spent 2014 in Bhutan, with Jordi, a water engineer, working as part of theAustralian Volunteers for International Development, and Jennifer coming along and working as a volunteer for several organisations.

IN SYNCH: Jordi and Jennifer in 2008, a social photo from the Newcastle Herald archives.

Jennifer became deeply immersed in Bhutan, writing a blog (jeninbhutan) and working in part on a proposed new complex for the Gross National Happiness Committee.

“She obviously got into the Bhutanese way of life,” Jordi says. “It’s the only official Buddhist country in the world. Jen had always associated with Buddhism anyway. She was very keen to intellectuallyand spirituallyimmerse herself in Buddhist culture and Buddhismwhen she was over there.”

There were lasting effects from Bhutan, with Jennifer’s interest in Buddhism piqued permanently.

On the lighter side, she fell in love with a friend’s particular cat in Bhutan.

As Jordi tells it: “On the plane from Bhutan, after being away from Australia for a year, I remember Jen telling me, ‘how about we get a cat when we get back to Australia’. I remember thinking, ‘are you serious?’ I grew up with pets, for me, l loved the idea. I just never expected Jen to suggest the idea.

“After we got back, on theday of my birthday,we went to the RSPCA in Rutherford and got ourselves a little kitten, a little male ginger, who is now a big male ginger, two-and-a-half yearson.”

Jennifer instantly took to her new cat. The couple chose to give him an unusual name –Emadatsi –which made perfect sense to them.

The national dish in Bhutan is chilli and cheese, which is eaten frequently and can be quite spicy.

“Takea pot, put a lot of cheese in there, put a lot of chilli in there, mix it over some heat and that’s how it’s done,” Jordi says. “In Bhutanese it’s called ema datsi: ‘ema’ being chilli and ‘datsi’ being cheese.

“You can’t go to Bhutan and not be surrounded by emadatsi. We thought it would be a nice name for a cat. We call him ED for short.”

Emadatsi is doing fine.

“He’shappy and healthy,” Jordi says. “It’s just me and him at home now. He’s a happy cat. It’s important for me to keep him happy and healthy, ‘cause Jen would have wanted that.

“I am quite lucky. He’s a good cat.”

Emadatsi is only one of many reminders of the life shared by Jordi and Jen. They took adventurous holidays together, they enjoyed bushwalking, restaurant dining, simple walks and picnics.

Mostmorningswould start with Jordi brewing cups of coffee forJen and himself.

Jordi has hardly used the coffee machine for himself since his wife’s death.

“For me, making that coffee of a morning, I’d do it for the two of us, that is what it was about,” he says. “That’s the fun, of making it, the routine of how you do it, enjoy making it.

“On Fridays we would go for coffee – me on my bicycle, she on the Vespa. Sometimes we would come in together on the Vespa. More often thannot we’d meet here at Bank Corner.”

In August, Jordi attended a fund-raising screening ofAn Inconvenient Sequel, a documentary follow-up to Al Gore’s mission to battle climate change by attempting to convince government leaders around the globe to invest in renewable energy.

“It was hard for me at times to watch that movie because I remember watchingAn Inconvenient Truth[the first doco with Al Gore on climate change]with Jen and her response to that movie -how passionate and emotional she was, and the discussions we had after the movie.

“There are all these little moments when it does become raw again.”

Jennifer Bates’ passion for making the world a better place left a strong impression on her friends,colleagues and family.

Shortly after she died Jordi and Jen’s parents (Kathryn Bennett and Ken Phelan) chose to keep her legacy alive through a fund-raising campaign in her honour.

It was decided the funds raised would go to BZE, to assist in research for the Zero Carbon Industry series of projects. The initial fund-raising target of $20,000 was reached in less than 10 days, so a new target was set at $30,000 and reached within weeks.

Most of the funds went to the first Zero Carbon Industry report on achieving zero carbon cement (BZE figures show cement-making contributes 8per cent of global carbon emissions), and that report was dedicated to Jennifer Bates.

For humankind: The dedication to Jennifer Bates in the BZE report into zero carbon cement, produced in part with funds raised by friends and family of Jennifer Bates.

Jordi was fully behind the funds being raised in Jen’s honour going to BZE projects.

“I think they have proven their credentials,” he says. “These guys are no wackos. They are not crazy ideas.”

Jordi and Jennifer were proudly part of a growing organisation locally.

“There is a strong environmentalmovement in Newcastle, fostered by the fact it’ssuch a strong coal industryarea,” Jordi says. “There is a reaction to that.”

Jennifer was closely involvedwith the Newcastle movement, actively taking part ina call to action initiative for one of the firstbulk purchases of solar storage batteries by consumers in Australia.

“To me, it was a surprise how effective a community can be,” Jordi says.

It was announced at her funeral that Jordi, along with Jennifer’s parents, were also establishing the Jennifer Bates Memorial Award with the NSWDepartment of Finance, Services and Innovation, to provide professional development for a young woman working within the department.

Jennifer was popular at work and outside of work. She was enthusiastic about many things, and genuine in her friendships.

While Jordi and Jen had much in common, there’s always more to learn. At his wife’s funeral, Jordi realised there was even more to Jen than he knew.

Asked if he had learned more about his wife after her death, he responded:“Jen’s ability to listen, thatwas somethingIdidn’t recognise or appreciate enough in our time together. But Ithink there are a lot of Jen’s friends who have a very considered, quiet approachto life, and she was such a good support to her friendsand colleagues at work.

“I’ve learned more about how much she was appreciated.That’s been a wonderfulthing, but also very sad. Sometimes Ithink maybe Ididn’tappreciatethat enough.”

SHEPHERDS HILLAmong the Bates’ favourite places was Shepherds Hill, where they would grab an impromptu picnic and appreciate the view, maybe spota whale,whenever the opportunity arose.

Jordi recalled the day he proposed to Jen at Shepherds Hill, when he surreptiously prepared a picnic and drinks in advance to surprise her and then called to invite her to join him. The day was turning dark and cold, with a threatening storm approaching, and Jen could notfigure out why Jordi wanted her to bicycle up to Shepherds Hill to meet him. But she did.

The couple were married at Shepherds Hill on October 15, 2011, complete with Brazilian drummers, purple bridesmaid dresses (Jen’s favourite colour was purple), a profiterole tower and a salsa bridal waltz.

Sunday will be their sixth wedding anniversary. Jordi will not feel like celebrating. He will probably spend the day reflecting on their good times, maybe sit down at home and go through their wedding album.

All of Jen’s clothes still hang in the wardrobe, a generous amount of purple always reminding him of her favourite colour.

Living alone is still a new experience for Jordi.“I haven’t been alonefor 13 years,” he says. “Everything falls back on you. You come home to a dark house. You’ve got to think about making dinner, feeding the cat, washing up. It’s a bit sad and depressing.”

Jordi soughtcounselling after Jen’s death, then took a break for several months. Lately, he’s returned for “a system check”.

While he is focused and firm in our conversation –which includes an extensive discussion of the day his wife died –Jordi admits to moments of tears, by himself and with others.

“I get a bit teary,” he says. “For me, that’s vindication, this an important, traumatic experience.Being at the crash site where Jen got killed, being at Shepherds Hill where we got married, being at the cemetery in Lake Macquarie. Just sitting there, being quiet, you know, getting emotional, just letting it all out.

“I don’t need to do that every day. They become less frequent the more you go through the grieving process. Initially, it was every couple of days. Now, it’s every couple of months.

“I think that’s a healthy thing. I’ve told a lot of people Iseek out these opportunities as well. I don’t want to pretend it didn’t happen. I don’t want to have that emotion not come to the surface. Sometimes Iwant to do it by myself. Sometimes with friends and family around me.

“You need to do that. It’s a very dangerous thing not to do that.

“People who know about grief will tell you the same thing. That’s an important part of my grieving process.

“On the other days, I makesure Iam fit and healthy and happy as Ican be.”

THE DAYIt’s hard to get past the event –the Bates home is less than 100 metres from the crash site.

Jordi rides his bicycle right through the collision point every day on his way to work. He can’t help but consider, it could have been him that died not Jen.

“It was a very unusual situation that morning. 90 percent of the time Jen and I would walk out the door together. Jen would sit on her scooter. I would be on my bicycle. We would kiss each other goodbye out the front of our house and we would essentially roll out together to the roundabout, her on the road, me on the footpath.

“We would hop onto that roundabout together about a quarter to nine, 20 to nine or something, and we would both go around the roundabout. So, you know, it’s tragic to think, that spot where we would change course is exactly the spot where she got hit, where she got killed.”

On that fatal day, Jordi had an earlymeeting and left home before Jen. He was in a meeting when he received a call from a private number and he didn’t pick up. After the meeting he was looking at his phone and saw that he missed three calls from private numbers. It was 10am, the phone rang while he was looking it, and he answered –it was a nurse telling him he needed to go to the John Hunter Hospital immediately.

He remembers the daywith great detail, even acknowledging that some of his memories are false memories –they didn’t happen exactly as he thought they did.

THE GRIEF“I guessI’ve learnt a lot about what it is to grieve, particularly as a young male,” he says. “It’s a strange thing to class oneself as a widow at 38. No one expects that.

“You also don’t want it to define who you are. When I walk down the street I don’t want people to point out and say, that’s theguy who’s a widow. I don’t want to be definedby Jen’s death. I want her death to be acknowledged. It’s changed me forever, Iknow that. Anyone who has lost a partner or a child will tell you that . . .

“I’ve found in general I was very, very impressed at sort of how the Newcastle community responded to Jen’s death, how they came together. That was a very powerful, touching event, around thecrash site. Themassive response at the funeral. That was an incredible experienceto live through.

“But Ialso learned how difficult people in society find it to talk about death in general. I think our society has a lot to learn about facing up to death.

“People respond well to ceremonial opportunities, to come together and grievetogether. They are important events.

“WhatI think we are less good at is openly talking about death and having it as a part of a mature discussion in everyday life. Once those rituals and ceremony are finished, everyone goes back to their everyday life.

“Whereas for me, Idon’t. I’mliving with this every day. As a society, we don’t talk about it enough. We aren’t prepared for it enough. What it means is when death happens, unplanned death, it’s a very difficult thing for people to accept, to work through.”

Peter Dutton predicts ‘yes’ campaign will win

The Turnbull government’s leading conservative cabinet minister – and a key architect of the same-sex marriage postal survey – believes the ‘yes’ campaign will win.
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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton made the prediction on Wednesday night, just four weeks after the first ballot papers were distributed to households across the country, and four weeks before voting closes.

“My judgment is the ‘yes’ vote will get up and it will be in the order of… whatever it is… but it will be a win for the ‘yes’ vote and that is my judgment of where the outcome will be,” Mr Dutton said.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The comment, made at an event in Sydney celebrating the Australian Financial Review Magazine’s newly published power list, is significant because Mr Dutton led the push inside the cabinet to hold the non-compulsory, non-binding postal survey. He is also the first senior conservative cabinet minister to publicly predict a majority of Australians will support amending the Marriage Act.

Mr Dutton personally opposes changing the law, but has previously pledged to vote for same-sex marriage in Parliament should the ‘yes’ campaign win the postal survey.

“The other aspect I might say about the postal vote is that I think it gives a greater legitimacy to a significant social change and I think for same-sex couples if there is to be change, if there is to be legislative change, I think that is best to be done with the support of millions of Australians demonstrated through a ballot as opposed to a five-to-midnight crossing of the floor of four people,” he said.

The Coalition agreed to the $122 million postal survey in August amid fears up to four Liberal MPs who passionately support same-sex marriage could cross the floor and vote with Labor and the crossbench.

Mr Dutton told the Sydney audience any other course of action would have caused the Liberal Party “political difficulty in the extreme” given it went to the 2016 federal election promising a plebiscite.

Some 10 million ballot forms have been posted to the Australian Bureau of Statistics as of October 6, representing a healthy return rate of 62.5 per cent. The response rate has already eclipsed Ireland’s, which held a non-compulsory referendum on same-sex marriage in 2015.

Voting in Australia closes on November 7 and the result will be announced on November 15.

Asked by the event’s moderator whether he held leadership ambitions, Mr Dutton agreed he wanted to one day lead the Liberal Party, but quickly pledged his loyalty to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“You don’t sign up to play for the Wallabies or the Socceroos or for the Australian cabinet to not be leader or have the opportunity to become leader one day,” Mr Dutton said.

“I think recent history has demonstrated that anybody that would seek to burst their way into leadership now or try to knock off the leader would be dead before they got out of first base. So my perspective… is that loyalty is the new black and I think you are better off to be loyal to leaders.. and if things work out how you want them to work out then that’s a great thing.

“But my view is its in the best interests of our party to have a stability of leadership at the moment because ultimately it will be good for our country and then if that’s rewarded at some point, or if you are foolish because of that and the opportunity passes you by, then so be it.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.