Chinese whistleblower granted political asylum

‘Rebecca’ Jun Mei Wu has told SBS News she is relieved to have been granted asylum in Australia.

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Ms Wu worked for the digital arm of the People’s Daily state media empire from 2012 to 2016. She fled the city of Wuhan for Sydney after being detained and questioned by security officers over her affiliation with an underground Protestant church.

“I’m very thankful to the Australian government for saving me from certain imprisonment in China,” Ms Wu told SBS.

“My relatives are still under surveillance back home. The situation journalists face in China is dire.”

In a series of interviews with SBS last year, Ms Wu described the personal crisis she underwent when she was confronted by the systemic repression and censorship involved in the state media which is controlled by the Communist Party.

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“I left because I didn’t want to work in party propaganda anymore,” Ms Wu said.

“Telling the truth was not how we did business.”

Her husband remains in China, where authorities have placed him under a domestic travel restriction, which prevents him from leaving the city in which he works.

Ms Wu’s flight from China provided a rare insight into the workings of state media there, which has seen an increase in censorship directives and online surveillance under the watch of President Xi Jinping.

The former Communist Party member also documented several cases of extortion involving the People’s Daily, in which reporters were told to find evidence of corruption before blackmailing companies.

“It was cash for silence, basically,” she told SBS.

In one instance, she alleged that the Daily’s Wuhan bureau extorted more than 627,000 RMB every year from chemical manufacturer Chuyuan Technologies, which had done massive ecological damage to nearby villages after dumping effluent in the Yangtze River.

“This was our arrangement: Chuyuan would pay us $119,000 per year, and we would hold off on reporting any of these things that were affecting local people,” she explained.

“In addition to that, Chuyuan would get advertising space – as well as good press in our reportage.”

Ms Wu was detained by public security officials last year after managers discovered psalm notes at her workplace.

After intense questioning, she was asked to “infiltrate and monitor” her church group and to pass the information to security forces.

Her detention came at the height of a state crackdown on underground churches in China, in which a prominent pastor Father Gu Yuese was detained by authorities alongside his lawyer.

Reverend Bill Crews of the Uniting Church in Ashfield, who gave Ms Wu sanctuary upon her arrival to Australia, praised the Immigration Minister for his decision to grant asylum.

“I am so pleased by this decision,” Reverand Crews said.

“The immigration department and the minister have acted commendably.”

Watch The Feed’s interview with Jun Mei Wu about her case:

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Listen to coverage of the case on SBS Mandarin.

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Turnbull backtracks on GST promise in WA

Six months after getting a standing ovation for promising to fix the GST system that was short-changing WA, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backtracked and now says the floor he promised to set for the states is years away.

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The comments are a significant election blow to Premier Colin Barnett, who said over the weekend he wanted an answer from the prime minister during his visit this week about where the floor would be.

“The GST is our one major financial issue. I’ve been banging on about that for the last eight years, and I’ll continue to do so,” he said at the Liberal Party’s campaign launch.

The state’s GST share fell to 30 cents in every dollar raised by the tax in WA last year, equating to a $4.7 billion shortfall compared to the state’s population share.

It is blamed by the Barnett government for its record $3 billion-plus deficit.

Mr Turnbull now says WA will have to wait until its share increased to about 70-75 cents in the dollar.

He wrongly said that was forecast to be in about 2020, but Treasury says it will only be about 60 cents.

“Clearly you want to set a floor at a time when no state will be a loser and we need to wait a few years until the Western Australia share under the current formula climbs back up to a more normal level,” he told reporters.

It will also require the agreement of other states, he says.

Mr Turnbull said he was being consistent with last year’s promise, but last August there was no mention of the change taking until 2020 or requiring the agreement of the other states and Treasury being unable to act.

He also said Labor leader Mark McGowan should not be promising to divert federal funds to help pay for Labor’s flagship election policy – the $2.54 billion Metronet train system.

Labor plans to scrap the $1.9 billion controversial Perth Freight Link road project, tear up contracts already signed for it and redirect part of the $1.2 billion in federal funds to Metronet.

“That’s not his money … the Perth Freight Link project is one of the top priority projects and was assessed very carefully by Infrastructure Australia, was fully costed and engineered and is ready to go,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio.

“If he wants federal money for another project, he will have to make a case for it.

“Mr McGowan has no business case, even if this is the best idea in the world it will take years before it gets through all those hoops and governments can responsibly allocate the funds and get the work started.”

Mr McGowan says he is prepared to “have a war” with the federal government.

“We’ll get the money out of the commonwealth and if I have to have a war with the federal government I will, but they will cave in because Western Australia will not be intimidated or bullied,” he told reporters.

Mr McGowan said the federal and state Liberals had failed WA by not delivering changes to the GST.

Pence reassures Europe, demands NATO funds

Capping a European trip aimed at allaying fears about the new administration’s support, Pence said Washington’s backing for the EU remained “steadfast and enduring”.

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“Today it is my privilege on behalf of President Trump to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union,” Pence said after talks with EU president Donald Tusk in Brussels.

European allies have all been unnerved by Trump’s criticism of the EU as a vehicle for Germany, his praise of Britain’s decision to leave the bloc and his dismissal of NATO as “obsolete” even as he praises Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Pence pledged the United States would keep working with Europe to boost the world’s two biggest economies, fight terrorism and defend eastern EU states against Russian encroachment.

Tusk, a former Polish premier, said that Europeans “truly needed” the meeting with Pence and that the 28-nation bloc counted on “wholehearted and unequivocal” US support.

“Too much has happened over the past month in your country and in the EU … for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be,” Tusk said.

Pence also met European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, a former Luxembourg premier, who stressed that the United States “needs a strong united Europe.”.

NATO ‘actions not words’

Scores of protesters gathered in the EU quarter of the Belgian capital during Pence’s visit, criticising the Trump administration’s attitude toward women, gays and climate change.

Two female protesters went topless and carried banners saying “Pence get out of our pants,” while another placard read “Love Trumps Hate”.

At NATO headquarters, Pence said Trump expects NATO allies to make “real progress by the end of 2017” towards meeting a goal they set in 2014 of raising defence spending to two percent of GDP over a decade.

“If you don’t yet have a plan — these are my words, not his (Trump’s) — get one. It is time for actions, not words,” Pence told a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

So far, of the 28 NATO members, only the United States, Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia have met the two percent target.

“America will do our part but Europe’s defence requires Europe’s commitment as much as ours,” Pence said Monday.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis delivered a similar message at a NATO defence ministers meeting last week, saying Washington could “moderate” its commitment if allies fail to pay up.

Pence, Mattis and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have stuck close to established policy during their first foray into Europe despite Trump’s previous pronouncements.

But they have also been left to cope with their president’s unpredictable remarks, and by a growing scandal over the new White House’s links to Russia.

Pence admitted on Monday he was “disappointed” that former US national security adviser Michael Flynn had given him “inaccurate” information about his contacts with Russia over US sanctions before he resigned last week.

However he said he fully backed Trump’s decision to accept Flynn’s resignation.

‘Very positive’

Pence’s visit came two days after Trump referred, during a rally in Florida, to a non-existent Swedish terror incident and urged people to “look at what’s happening in Brussels” as he listed a series of European cities struck by deadly terror attacks.

Pence said the United States would remain “full partners” with the EU in fighting terrorism, a Trump priority.

He also pledged it would defend Europe’s “territorial integrity” and said the Trump administration will “continue to hold Russia accountable” for the violence in eastern Ukraine and demand that Moscow honour the Minsk agreements for a ceasefire due to begin Monday.

Trump is expected to attend a NATO summit in Brussels at the end of May and he has also been invited to meet EU leaders.

An EU source told AFP that Pence’s meeting with Tusk was “very positive”.

“Will it allay all Europeans fears about Trump? No but it was the best we could have hoped for,” the source added.

Haiti still recovering from 2016 hurricane and not equipped for Irma: Australian aid worker

With devastating winds reaching 290km/h Hurricane Irma has slammed the northeast Caribbean islands of Barbuda, Saint Martin, and the British and US Virgin Islands killing at least 10 people and flattening towns.

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As rain intensifies and flooding begins on the small island of Haiti, Australian aid worker Ascension Martinez talked about the impact another storm could have on a struggling nation that has not fully recovered from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Ms Ascension said the potential damage the Category 5 storm could wreak on the north of the island is worrying with infrastructure in Haiti not equipped to deal with the possible floods and landslides.

0:00 Residents evacuate Florida as Irma looms Share Residents evacuate Florida as Irma looms

“The latest news we are getting in now from the north in particular, where the heavier rain has started, is there is already flooding in the far north parts of the country,” Ms Ascension told SBS World News from Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.

“We are not hearing a lot of wind issues at this point in time and they are still saying it will hit later today.

“With the rain will come flooding and with flooding could come landslides, because this country has a very poor environmental habitat. The mountains are all bare and people live in very dangerous places due to the poverty.”

Ms Ascension, working with Save the Children, said hundreds and thousands of families living in precarious infrastructure or poverty at sea level would be affected if severe flooding was to hit the north of the country.

0:00 Video shows devastation to St Martin Share Video shows devastation to St Martin

Haiti is still recovering from when Hurricane Matthew devastated the small Caribbean island killing hundreds of people and destroying livelihoods in October 2016.

“The main concern here is heavy rain and people living in poor housing areas, low-lying areas, in areas that a prone to flooding,” she said.

“Also the loss of livelihoods with crops gone and people’s livelihoods at risk of disappearing again.

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“Any disturbance to what is their livelihood, and here most of the population live off the little businesses, any loss of business means they have very little to fall back on.”

She said in the capital, Port-au-Prince, depending on the strength of the hurricane, most of the population that live in poverty will be affected.

A few Saint Maarten homes remain intact in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. (AAP)AAP

“What we’ve done is we have schools and clinics in various places we support. What we will be doing is we have contact numbers for these people and we will be ringing them as off tomorrow [Friday] morning,” she said.

“We will be calling our contacts and staff in the field to see what the situation is and then linking to our regional offices in Panama and our headquarters in London to see exactly what we need.

“You are never really equipped to handle these things. We can support the government initiatives and support what we know, but you never really seem to have the stocks to respond.

People pick up the remains of a home after the crossing of Hurricane Irma in Nagua, Dominican Republic.AAP

“That is why we are doing so much work here on disaster risk reduction trying get people to build better and build in safer places. All of those things to get a better outcome.”

The National Hurricane Center said Irma still remained a Category 5 storm, despite winds dipping on Thursday.

Irma is expected to head towards Florida as a potential Category 4 hurricane by the time it reaches on Sunday.

Australians in Florida prepare for monster Hurricane Irma

Spencer Hooker has four Australian inspired cafes in St Augustine, Florida, but instead of dishing up meat pies and flat whites to his American clientele he has been creating sandbags and buying plywood to board up windows.

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With the monster-sized category five Hurricane Irma tearing through the Caribbean with winds exceeding 280 km/h and on target for a direct hit on Florida on Sunday, Mr Hooker and the large population of other Australian expatriates across the state spent Thursday getting ready.

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“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Mr Hooker, 36, who has four Kookaburra Coffee cafes in St Augustine, on the northeast coast of Florida, told AAP.

The hurricane has killed at least ten people as it crashed through Caribbean islands including St Martin, Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands.

Mr Hooker and other Australians were waiting until Friday to get a better read on what path Irma would likely take before deciding whether to evacuate.

“One of my baristas is from Noosa and his wife is eight months pregnant,” Mr Hooker said.

The couple hopes to stay in the area where their doctor and hospital is, but are prepared to evacuate.

Another Australian, Cameron Pinnock, his wife Alyssa and two children aged seven and two, took no chances with staying in their home in Orlando in central Florida.

They flew north to Michigan, even buying a ticket for their family dog, to wait out the hurricane with family.

Gavin Caddy, an Australia lawyer in Fort Lauderdale on Florida’s southeast coast, is driving 240km north to be with friends in the central Florida city of Sebring.

“You can’t play games with this,” Mr Caddy said.

“It’s as wide as the state of Florida so the chances are it will hit the entire state and some areas are worse than others.

“There is nowhere in south Florida that is safe as far as I’m concerned.”

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Another Australian in Fort Lauderdale, yacht broker David Nichols, is staying at his home that is eight kilometres inland on the New River.

He spent Thursday drilling plywood across windows and has stocked his fridges and freezer “with plenty of water, beer wine and spirits”.

Mr Nichols also has options if the power goes out.

“I have a large BBQ that uses propane and charcoal,” he said.

“My generator also has enough petrol to run for about five days and will run most of the house.”

Alcohol and Australian fare appears to be a key for the Australians as they bunker down.

Mr Nichols’ hurricane “Aussie survival kit” includes Four’N Twenty pies, a couple of bottles of Bundaberg Rum, Vegemite and Tim Tams.

Mr Pinnock, who endured last year’s Hurricane Matthew, said another common Florida tactic to get through a hurricane involved a mix of beer and red wine.

“You drink the beer while the power remains on and the beer is cold and then you switch to the red wine because you don’t have to keep it cold,” Mr Pinnock said.

 

US cities in bidding war for Amazon’s new $6 billion headquarters

Amazon.

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com is searching for a location to build its second headquarters in North America that would cost more than $US5 billion ($A6.2 billion) and house up to 50,000 staff.

The e-commerce company, which is headquartered in Seattle, said on Thursday it was seeking proposals from local and state government leaders, and would select the location next year.

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Amazon’s workforce has exploded to more than 380,000 from under 25,000 since it moved to Seattle in 2010, as it rapidly expanded to become a global retailer – selling everything from groceries to appliances.

The company’s total revenue has grown to $US136 billion at the end of last year from $US34 billion in 2010. Amazon recently snatched up Whole Foods Market for $US13.7 billion.

Amazon said the new headquarters should ideally be located in a metropolitan area with more than one million people, potentially giving the company a shopping list of more than 50 cities to choose from.

The project would initially need more than 500,000 square feet and up to 8 million square feet beyond 2027, Amazon said.

“We want to find a city that is excited to work with us and where our customers, employees, and the community can all benefit,” Amazon said.

Amazon is looking for a favourable tax structure and local government subsidies, incentives that have attracted other companies like Taiwan-based Foxconn to build facilities in the United States.

Foxconn plans to build a $US10 billion liquid crystal display factory in Wisconsin.

The state’s Republican-controlled government had voted to approve a bill aimed at establishing a $US3 billion incentive package for the plant.

Amazon expects the new headquarters to be a “full equal” to its Seattle office, Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said in a statement.

The Seattle campus is spread across 8.1 million square feet in 33 buildings and employs more than 40,000 people.

No Sharks mercy for NRL’s battered Cowboys

North Queensland have the most expensive casualty ward of any team in the NRL finals, but Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan says the Sharks have no sympathy for them.

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The Cowboys will have co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott watching from the sidelines for Sunday’s elimination final between the clubs, while former Queensland centre Justin O’Neill is also injured.

The Queenslanders enter September with just one win from their past six matches, their worst end to the regular season since 2010.

In comparison, the Sharks’ casualty ward from their top 17 includes only bench forward Sam Tagataese, while Tony Williams is also unavailable after playing reserve grade for the first half of the year.

But Flanagan scoffed at suggestions the Cowboys are disadvantaged, saying they had been without Thurston and Scott for 17 of 24 matches this year.

“We don’t buy into feeling sorry for the Cowboys because they are wounded,” Flanagan said.

“The two players they’ve got out, Scott and JT, they’ve been out for long periods of time.

“I think everyone is trying to pump it up to feel sorry for the Cowboys, but you won’t get anything from us.”

Flanagan’s comments come just days after Sharks captain Paul Gallen accused the Cowboys of “crying poor” heading into Sunday’s clash at Allianz Stadium.

The Cowboys have an 8-9 record without champion playmaker Thurston this year, but that figure slips to a worrying 1-9 against the top-eight finishers.

They have also been described as “cannon fodder” by Queensland coach Kevin Walters, while no eighth-placed team has survived the first week of the finals since the introduction of the current system in 2012.

But Flanagan pointed to the fit members of the Cowboys squad as reasons why they were still dangerous and said the threats didn’t stop with Jason Taumalolo.

“They’ve got some other players in their team that are quality as well.

“They’ve got a young Origin player (Coen Hess) sitting on their bench, and the two backrowers are great players.

“(Michael) Morgan is a quality player, (Lachlan) Coote is a great player.”

Gay wedding cake case heads to US Supreme Court

The Trump administration has filed papers at the US Supreme Court backing a Christian baker in Colorado whom a state court ruled against for declining to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

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In the brief, Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall said Jack Phillips should be exempt from Colorado’s anti-discrimination law because making custom cakes is a form of free expression protected under the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

The high court agreed in June to hear Phillips’ appeal of the state court ruling that his refusal to make the cake violated the anti-discrimination law.

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Phillips contends the law violated his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.

The court will hear oral arguments and issue a ruling in the case in its new term, which starts in October and ends in June.

The legal fight broke out in 2012 when Phillips told gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig that because of his Christian beliefs, his store’s policy was to deny service to customers wanting to purchase cakes to celebrate a same-sex wedding.

In the new court papers, Wall wrote that a First Amendment violation occurred “where a public accommodation law compels someone to create expression for a particular person or entity and to participate, literally or figuratively in a ceremony or other expressive event.”

Wall said if Phillips wins the case, only businesses that engage in creative acts similar to making a cake would potentially be able to obtain similar exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

“What the Trump administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Louise Melling, who represents the couple.

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Google, Bing move to block illegal sites

Internet users will find it harder to search for illegally streamed live football matches, pirated music and other creative materials under a new plan to crack down on piracy websites.

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Search engine giants Google and Bing have signed up to a voluntary code of practice aimed at protecting users’ safety and prevent them from visiting disreputable content providers.

The code, the first of its kind in the UK, will accelerate the demotion of illegal sites following notices from rights holders.

It means those who search for content such as music videos, digital books and football coverage will more likely to be taken to bona fide providers rather than pirate sites where a user’s security may be at risk.

Eddy Leviten, director-general at the Alliance for Intellectual Property, said: “Sometimes people will search for something and they will end up unwittingly being taken to a pirated piece of content.

“What we want to ensure is that the results at the top of the search engines are the genuine ones.

“It is about protecting people who use the internet, but also protecting the creators of that material too.

“You go into schools and speak to children and many will say they want to be on YouTube, to be a personality on there.

“When you explain to them that they need to protect their ideas, their content, from being stolen or pirated, they understand.”

Organisers say this agreement will run in parallel with existing anti-piracy measures aimed at reducing online infringement.

These include court-ordered site blocking, work with brands to reduce advertising on illegal sites and the Get it Right From A Genuine Site consumer education campaign, which encourages fans to value the creative process and directs them to legal sources of content.

The changes are expected to be rolled out by the (northern) summer.

Mugabe says he’s people’s choice for poll

Zimbabwe’s people and the ruling ZANU-PF party see no viable alternative candidate to President Robert Mugabe for general elections in 2018, state media have quoted him as saying.

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“They want me to stand for elections, they want me to stand for elections everywhere in the party,” Africa’s oldest leader said on Sunday.

“The majority of the people feel that there is no replacement, successor who to them is acceptable, as acceptable as I am,” he said in comments to state media ahead of his 93rd birthday this week.

Mugabe has been in power in the southern African country since 1980 and in December his party confirmed him as its candidate for the next presidential election expected in mid-2018, when he will be 94.

“Of course if I feel that I can’t do it any more, I will say so to my party so that they relieve me. But for now I think I can’t say so,” Mugabe said.

Mugabe, known for his combative style, said he agreed with US President Donald Trump’s “America for America” approach.

“When it comes to Donald Trump, on the one hand talking of American nationalism, well America for America, America for Americans – on that we agree. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans,” he said.

The state-run Sunday Mail newspaper said he added Trump might review the sanctions imposed on Mugabe and members of his inner circle by Washington in 2003 over alleged rights violations. The sanctions were extended by the Obama administration.

Mugabe said he had not wanted Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 White House election because “I knew she could slap sanctions on us as a legacy.”

“We are just now under sanctions imposed not by Donald Trump, but by Obama. What arrogance is that?,” Mugabe was quoted as saying.

Critics accuse Mugabe of wrecking one of Africa’s most promising economies through policies such as violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms and money printing. He and his party say the economy has been undermined by western powers.

Commonwealth ripped off more than $1.2b

Identity fraud is becoming a costly issue for the federal government, with more and more Australians misusing documents to access benefits like welfare.

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A new report by the Australian Institute of Criminology found Commonwealth entities were defrauded of more than $1.2 billion between 2010 and 2014.

A vast majority of the nearly 400,000 reported incidents were allegedly committed by members of the public, but nearly 10 per cent involved public servants or contractors.

Those largely related to the misuse of government credit cards or obtaining cash without permission, at a cost of almost $13 million.

While cases of internal fraud declined over the four years, the number of alleged incidents involving identity misuse by the public jumped 360 per cent.

More than 17,000 incidents were reported in 2010-11, compared to nearly 80,000 in 2013-14.

They most common related to government entitlements – such as social security – revenue and visas or citizenship.

While the increase was linked to changes of how one entity classified some kinds of fraud, the report said it still indicated “risks associated with identity are of real concern”.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the fight against bribery and fraud was ongoing.

“Our agencies are pursuing fraud here and beyond our borders to protect our national interest and the interests of every Australian,” he said in a statement.

The report also found:

* Losses suffered by Commonwealth entities due to fraud jumped 450 per cent between 2010-11 and 2013-14, from $119 million to $673 million

* $75.3 million was recovered in that period

* 36 per cent of Commonwealth entities experienced fraud in 2013-14, down from 40 per cent in 2010-11

* The number of suspected internal fraud incidents dropped 57 per cent between 2010-11 and 2013-14

Trump mulls national security adviser pick

President Donald Trump may do another round of interviews for the position of national security adviser with new or existing candidates as he scrambles to fill the post following the ouster of Michael Flynn.

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Trump interviewed four finalists on Sunday and may meet with some of them again on Monday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

The president interviewed acting adviser Keith Kellogg, former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Lieutenant General HR McMaster and Lieutenant General Robert Caslen at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

“We may have some additional meetings and names tomorrow, and may also meet with a couple of those people again,” Sanders said.

Trump returns to Washington on Monday.

The national security adviser is one of the most senior jobs at the White House, holding broad influence over US foreign policy across the globe and presiding over the National Security Council staff.

White House officials made clear on Sunday that the new adviser would have autonomy over staffing decisions, an issue that has been reported to have thwarted some other candidates.

Trump’s first choice to fill the job after Flynn’s departure, Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned it down, citing family and financial reasons.

Another potential choice, David Petraeus, a retired general and former CIA chief who resigned in 2012 over an extramarital affair, was cut from the president’s short list.

Sources familiar with the candidates’ thinking said they both wanted control over staffing of their team, and Trump was reluctant to grant that authority.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus denied the reports that Harward and Petraeus wanted more control than Trump was prepared to give, and said in an interview on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace that the new adviser “can do whatever he or she wants to do with the staffing”.

He said the issue never came up in discussions with Harward and they “hadn’t really gone down the road” with Petraeus.

The White House confirmed that Craig Deare, the NSC’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, had left that role.

Politico reported that he was dismissed for criticising the president and his top aides.

“He was just sent back to his original position, so he wasn’t fired,” Sanders said. Deare is on the faculty of the National Defense University.

Asked if government employees should be concerned that they would lose their jobs if they criticised Trump, Sanders said: “I don’t think that any person that is there in order to carry out the president’s agenda should be against the president’s agenda.”

The national security adviser is an independent aide to the president and does not require confirmation by the US Senate.

oOh!Media eyes growth after FY profit rise

Outdoor and digital advertising group oOh!Media has lifted full-year profit 17.

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4 per cent and is targeting further growth in a year it hopes will include the completion of its merger with rival APN Outdoor.

Net profit for the 12 months to December 31 rose to $21.6 million following a trio of acquisitions and the continued rollout of its digital billboards.

Chief executive Brendan Cook said oOh!Media would benefit from increased savings from the integration of its recently acquired businesses in the 2017 financial year.

The company on Monday said the acquisition and integration of Executive Channel Network, Junkee Media and Cactus Imaging had already strengthened its reach, content capability and efficiency.

“We participate in a competitive and rapidly evolving broader advertising market … (and) it’s clear we need to invest and innovate,” Mr Cook told analysts on Monday.

“Therefore, to compete against global online players aggressive traditional media such as TV and radio, we will continue to invest in product, data and content to improve the effectiveness of out of home (adverting).”

Underlying earnings rose 27 per cent at $73.5 million, at the upper end of guidance issued in December, after the advertiser more than doubled its number of large format digital screens in premium locations from 90 to 190.

Mr Cook said digital conversion would continue at pace in 2017 even though the addition of 54 large format road billboards easily exceeded a prospectus target of 50 by 2018.

“Our performance highlights the benefits of our diversified portfolio of assets, and we firmly believe this positions the company for continuing growth,” Mr Cook said.

“Importantly, the products are increasingly benefiting from greater co-ordination of campaigns and the network effect across multiple media environments and channels.”

Mr Cook did not give earnings guidance for 2017 because the proposed $1.6 billion APN Outdoor merger is still subject to shareholder approval.

He said a scheme meeting was expected in April, with the merger hopefully completed in May.

Revenue for the 12 months to December 31 rose 20.1 per cent, with underlying earnings up 27 per cent at $73.5 million, at the upper end of guidance issued in December.

At 1200 AEDT, shares in oOh!Media were up nine cents, or two per cent, at $4.59.

OOH!MEDIA UPS FY PROFIT

* Net profit up 17.4pct to $21.6m

* Revenue up 20.1pct to $336.1m

* Final dividend up 3.3 cents to 10.0 cents, fully franked