Category: Australia

Assange backers in cyber retaliation over arrest

Wikileaks supporters hacked the websites of the Swedish prosecutor and MasterCard in retaliation over arrest of Julian Assange, who published secret US diplomatic cables. The Swedish prosecution authority, whose arrest order for Assange over accusations of sexual offences led a British court to remand the 39-year-old WikiLeaks website founder in custody, said it had reported the online attack to police. MasterCard website also was attacked for blocking donations to the Wikileaks website. A twitter post by AnonOps posted this information.

Assange, who has lived periodically in Sweden, was accused this year of sexual misconduct by two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers. The pair’s lawyer said their claims were not a politically motivated plot against Assange. "It has nothing to do with WikiLeaks or the CIA," said lawyer Claes Borgstrom, whose website also came under cyber-attack, according to officials.

"Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the U.S. diplomatic communications network," Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd told Reuters in an interview. "The Americans are responsible for that," said Rudd, who had been described in one leaked U.S. cable as a "control freak".

Assange has prominent supporters including campaigning Australian journalist John Pilger and British filmmaker Ken Loach as defender of free speech. Some supporters appear to want to help him. While most denial of service attacks involve botnets, programs that hijack computers and use them to target individual websites and bring them down, the current cyber-attacks seem to be different. "In this case… they seem to be using their own computers," he said. Asked what that said about how many individuals might be involved: "Probably hundreds at the least could be thousands," said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer of Finnish software security firm F-Secure.

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$400m of heroin found hidden in Sydney

BBC | 1 November 2010 | 13:06 GMT

Australian police have intercepted one of the country’s largest shipments of heroin, with a street value of more than 410 million Australian dollars. ($400m; £250m) The drugs were found hidden in a consignment of doors sent from Malaysia bound for Sydney.

An Australian woman, her son and a man from Hong Kong have been arrested in Sydney. Commander David Stewart, Australian Federal Police, said the siezure showed a change in tactics.

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Australian stock market shaky after inconclusive poll

Trading is down as financial markets open in Australia, following this weekend’s inconclusive election. The Australian dollar and government bonds both fell in value. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has held initial talks with independent candidates to try to form a government after her Labor party lost its majority. Ms Gillard said she would continue to provide “stable” government as final votes are counted. The Australian dollar lost almost 1% against the US dollar in early trading, before recovering somewhat. Ms Gillard has acknowledged that neither her Labor Party nor the opposition conservative coalition was likely to win the 76 seats needed for an outright majority. Australia’s ABC is forecasting 72 seats for Labor and 73 for the conservatives. “It is clear that neither party has earned the right to government in its own right,” Ms Gillard said. She added that Labor had won the most votes overall nationally, if minor parties are discounted. But opposition leader Tony Abbott said it was clear Labor had lost its parliamentary majority and its legitimacy. “There was a savage swing against this government,” he said. Mr Abbott said he had also made contact with the independents candidates. The election comes two months after Ms Gillard ousted Kevin Rudd in a controversial leadership challenge.

‘Good faith’

Australia has not elected a hung parliament since 1940. A handful of members of parliament now appear to hold the balance of power. They include three independents, a Green Party candidate, and an independent whose seat is not yet confirmed. “It’s my intention to negotiate in good faith an effective agreement to form government,” Ms Gillard told journalists on Sunday. She added that she would “continue to provide stable and effective government in accordance with our democratic process while the final votes are counted in this election”. Continue reading

Pentagon could be behind rape claims: WikiLeaks

ABC News | AFP | 22/08/2010 | 5:17pm IST

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says in an interview published today that he believes the Pentagon could be behind a rape accusation against him that was later dropped by Swedish prosecutors. The Aftonbladet newspaper has quoted Mr Assange as saying that he does not know who is “hiding behind” the claims, which comes amid a stand-off with Washington over the website’s publication of secret Afghan war documents. But he says that he has been warned previously that groups such as the Pentagon “could use dirty tricks” to destroy the whistleblower site – adding that he has been warned against sexual scandals in particular.

Swedish prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Assange on Saturday (local time) over an allegation of rape but abruptly cancelled it hours later, saying that he was now “not suspected of rape” and was no longer wanted for questioning. The prosecution service said that an investigation into a separate molestation charge remained open. The 39-year-old Australian, the WikiLeaks website and his aides have strongly denied all the claims. Continue reading

Swedish rape warrant for Wikileaks’ Assange cancelled

BBC News |

Sweden has cancelled an arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on accusations of rape and molestation. The Swedish Prosecution Authority website said the chief prosecutor had come to the decision that Mr Assange was not suspected of rape but did not give any further explanation. The warrant was issued late on Friday. Wikileaks, which has been criticised for leaking Afghan war documents, had quoted Mr Assange as saying the charges were “without basis”. That message, which appeared on Twitter and was attributed directly to Mr Assange, said the appearance of the allegations “at this moment is deeply disturbing”.

In a series of other messages posted on the Wikileaks Twitter feed, the whistle-blowing website said: “No-one here has been contacted by Swedish police”, and that it had been warned to expect “dirty tricks”. In its “official blog” on Saturday before the warrant was cancelled, Wikileaks said it was “deeply concerned about the seriousness of these allegations. We the people behind Wikileaks think highly of Julian and and he has our full support”. The current whereabouts of Mr Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, are unclear.

More documents

The Swedish Prosecution Authority website said chief prosecutor Eva Finne had come to the decision that Julian Assange was not subject to arrest. In a brief statement Eva Finne said: “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” The website said there would be no further Continue reading

Australia’s Labour to scrape back into power

Reuters | Aug 18, 2010 | 4:39pm IST

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government will narrowly win Saturday’s election, a Reuters Poll Trend showed on Wednesday. Australia’s small Greens party, on course to gain the balance of power in the Senate upper house, said it would seek to toughen the mining tax if Labor wins. The proposed 30 percent tax on iron ore and coal, forecast to raise A$10.5 billion ($9.5 billion) over two years starting 2012, has been signed off by mining giants BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata, but is opposed by much of the rest of Australia’s key mining sector. The Greens’ stance could force the government to negotiate some changes. The Greens want to raise an extra A$2 billion a year. “All I can do is say we will negotiate strongly, inject better ideas into the mining tax proposals Labor has,” Brown told the National Press Club. A Labor victory would also see a possible carbon trading scheme to combat climate change from 2012 and ensure construction of a $38 billion fibre-optic national broadband network. The Liberal-National opposition opposes all three policies.

CLOSE ELECTION

With two days of campaigning left and economic management a key issue, the opposition on Wednesday promised a budget surplus of A$6.2 billion by 2012-13, almost double the government’s forecast surplus of A$3.5 billion. Australians are historically wary of government borrowing due to high levels of personal debt and home ownership, so the opposition also promised to cut the country’s A$90 billion ($81.5 billion) debt by a third within four years. The latest Reuters Poll Trend shows Labor has a 3 point lead, which could see Gillard win a four-seat majority in the 150-seat parliament. Labor had a 16-seat majority at the last election. “I think this will be the closest election since 1961, which was a cliff-hanger. I do think this will go down to the wire,” Chris Bowen, Labor’s campaign spokesman, said on Wednesday. However, the possibility remains that the Aug. 21 election may result in a hung parliament, where neither Labor nor the opposition wins enough seats to form government. In that case the support of three independents will decide which party forms the next government. Continue reading

Abbott defends candidate critical of Jews, gays, women

ABC News | 10/08/2010 | 6:20 am IST

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has defended a Liberal National Party (LNP) candidate who once published a university newspaper containing material critical of Jews, gays and women. Mackay City Councillor George Christensen only needs a swing of 2.6 per cent to win the marginal Labor-held seat of Dawson. But today questionable material published by Cr Christensen in his university days in the 1990s has emerged. In the publication, called The Student Advocate and published by the Conservative Students Alliance in 1998, Cr Christensen reportedly made jokes about AIDS, linked Jews to the crucifixion of Christ and described women as “stupid”.

Questioned about the revelations this morning, Mr Abbott said there was “colourful material” from most people’s university days. “There’s colourful stuff from my uni days. There’s colourful stuff from Julia Gillard’s uni days,” he said. “If there’s colourful stuff from George Christensen’s uni days, I think we just have to accept that uni is a colourful place and move on. “He’s a good bloke and I stand by him,” Mr Abbott added.

Cr Christensen has released a statement apologising for the publications, saying the comments were not meant to be taken seriously. “Some of the content I provided for those publications was intended to shock readers or to use humour in a shocking way rather than to provide legitimate commentary,” the statement said. “In the process, I published and circulated what were clearly stupid statements, which I regret. “To those offended by those statements, I apologise without any reservation.”  Continue reading