Swedish cops featured in Fox News segment slam ‘madman’ filmmaker

After US President Donald Trump’s “last night in Sweden” comment at a rally in Florida on Saturday, the two Swedish police officers featured in the Fox News segment that sparked the confusion have spoken out.

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Soon after the rally, President Trump defended his statement, claiming he was referring to a ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ segment on Fox News about one of Swedish filmmaker Ami Horowitz’s movies.

Titled ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, the film blames immigration as a direct cause of violence and rioting.

My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017

Excerpts of interviews with two Swedish police officers were also included, but those officers have now come forward to say the entire interview was taken out of context.

Officers Anders Göranzon and Jacob Ekström claim the interview was set up to discuss crime in high-risk areas. They say there wasn’t any focus on issues of immigration and describe Horowitz as a “madman”.

“He has edited the answers,” Göranzon told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “We were answering completely different questions in the interview. This is bad journalism.”

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The officers are adamant that they don’t condone Horowitz’s work and say “we don’t stand behind what he says”.

“It feels like hell,” Göranzon told Dagens Nyheter.

“The real questions should be shown along with our answers. We don’t own the rights to the film, but the end result is that we don’t want to talk to journalists after this. We can’t trust each other.”

During the Fox News broadcast on Friday, Horowitz asserted that the increase of immigrant-related violent incidents in Sweden has been covered up. However, the New York Times noted that there is no statistical evidence that immigration in Sweden has led to an increase in crime.

Horiwitz responded to the international reaction to his interview via Twitter.

Everyone covering my @TuckerCarlson interview attacking pres is missing point.Swed IS under assault b/c of policies长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/qH1Q2b1zIF

— Ami (@AmiHorowitz) February 19, 2017

President Trump echoed that sentiment on Monday with another claim of “fake news”.

Give the public a break – The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2017

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Confidence falls on weak jobs market

Consumer confidence has fallen for a third straight week, a survey shows, with worries about job security the likely cause of concerns.

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The latest ANZ-Roy Morgan Australian Consumer Confidence Survey shows that sentiment fell 2.3 per cent to 113.7 in the week ended February 19, remaining above the 100-point level separating confidence and pessimism.

ANZ’s head of Australian economics David Plank said the fall in confidence was surprising given recent economic data has been broadly positive.

“Signs of renewed weakness in full-time employment may have weighed on consumers’ views of their personal finances even as the headline unemployment rate ticked down,” he said in a note.

“It is also possible that recent discussions on housing affordability have negatively impacted sentiment.

“Views on financial conditions have been trending down since the start of 2017 and have now dropped to around the long-run average. This warrants some concern as the sub-index is closely correlated with consumer spending.”

Survey respondents’ views of their current financial conditions, compared to one year ago, fell 7.5 per cent to be at their lowest level since August, 2014, and they were just 0.3 per cent more upbeat about their future finances.

Consumers were also less optimistic about the wider economic outlook, with their views about economic conditions over the next 12 months falling 1.6 per cent and their views about economic conditions over the next five years slumping 4.9 per cent.

The only bright spot on the survey was a 1.3 per cent rise of the “now is a good time to buy a major household item” subindex.

Scentre keeps close eye on retail tenants

Australia’s biggest retail landlord is keeping a close eye on the performance of its tenants following the recent demise of retailers Allphones, Marcs, David Lawrence, Pumpkin Patch and Payless Shoes.

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Scentre Group, the owner of Westfield shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand, says it will replace a tenant with a more popular retailer if it shows signs of poor sales or falls behind in rent payments.

“When we do see poor performance or poor payment, we would work in terms of looking at replacing those retailers,” chief executive Peter Allen said as he reported a 10 per cent rise in Scentre’s annual net profit.

Scentre had seven or eight Allphones stores in its shopping centres when the mobile phone group was placed in administration in early February, he said, down from 25 stores some three or four years ago.

Scentre had also removed Rhodes & Beckett clothing stores from its centres before that chain went into administration.

“We are very proactive in terms of making sure that we replace those retailers who are poorly performing with better performing retailers, which allows us to provide the right retail mix with those retailers which are in demand by the consumers,” Mr Allen said.

Scentre’s full year net profit rose to $2.99 billion, thanks to higher sales in its shopping centres and property revaluations of $1.6 billion.

Annual comparable speciality sales rose 2.6 per cent, with good increases in jewellery, health & beauty, food retail and technology, Scentre said.

The company’s revenue fell 12 per cent to $2.5 billion due to lower property development and project management revenue.

Funds from operations – Scentre’s preferred measure of financial performance that excludes property revaluations and other one-off items, rose 3.2 per cent to $1.23 billion, exceeding the group’s guidance.

The company has forecast FFO growth of 4.25 per cent for 2017, and a two per cent rise in its distributions to investors.

Scentre shares were down 2.5 cents at $4.475 at 1210 AEDT.

WESTFIELD SALES GROWTH BOOSTS SCENTRE’S PROFIT

* Full year net profit up 10.4pct to $2.99b

* Revenue down 12.1pct to $2.52b

* Final distribution up 0.2 cents to 10.65 cents

Netanyahu visit: Australia’s relationship with Israel and where it could go

In the past fortnight the Israeli leader has visited London and Washington DC for talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May and “old friend” US President Donald Trump.

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His visit to Australia this week will be the first for a serving Israeli Prime Minister.

His time with Malcolm Turnbull will likely cover similar ground: the Palestinian conflict, West Bank settlements, Iran, and combatting global terror.

Mr Netanyahu, accompanied by wife Sara, will also meet with Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, opposition leader Bill Shorten, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and members from Australia’s Israeli communities.

Australia’s Israeli embassy confirmed that, during Mr Netanyahu’s visit, the countries will sign two bilateral agreements. The first will focus on technological innovation, while the second will help “facilitate commercial air transport services” between Australia and Israel.

Anthony Bergin, from the Australian Strategic and Policy Institute, says the Israel-Australia relationship could be strengthened.

“It’s a good time for an Israeli Prime Minister to visit, and I think while we’ve got a lot of rhetoric about common values there isn’t at the moment a lot of substance,” he said. 

“The relationship, in many ways is underachieving. It could be developed.”

MORE ON THE VISIT

The last time an Israeli foreign minister visited Australia was in 1976, so what has prompted this visit from Benjamin Netanyahu?

“The ‘why’ I think comes back to common values around democracy, around shared support for human rights (and) recognition of the plight of Jewish people after the war,” Mr Bergin said.

“Obviously the relationship between the two countries has always been warm. Australia has always been seen by the Israelis as a friendly country.”

Wars and friendship

“The ties between Israel and Australia date back to 1917, with the Australian Light Horse Brigades’ courageous charge at the Battle of Beersheba, which was a major milestone in driving out the Ottoman Empire from what is now modern Israel,” says a spokesperson from the Israeli embassy.

Dr Leanne Piggott, from the Centre for Social Impact, told SBS News the relationship “is rooted in history, shared cultural and political values… and a pro-western foreign policy orientation”.

“Australian soldiers returned to the Middle East in large numbers during World War II. Many were stationed temporarily in Palestine and were hosted at social events by the local Jewish communities,” she said.

“In both world wars, Australians and Jews living in Palestine fought side-by-side.”

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In 1948, Australian H.V ‘Doc’ Evatt utilised his position as President of the United Nations General Assembly to push for Israel’s formation.

And according to Dr Amin Saikal, director of the Centre for Arab Studies at the Australian National University, that’s when ties truly began to blossom.

He believes that showed in the aftermath of the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis, in which Israel, the UK and France invaded Egypt to regain western control of the Suez Canal and remove the Egyptian President from power.

“I think it really goes back to the Prime Minister Menzies era and the Suez crisis, and when Gamal Abdul Nasser – the President of Egypt – nationalised the Suez Canal in 1956,” he said.

“Users of the Suez Canal had a conference in Britain… and Prime Minister Menzies participated in that conference, and he was then sent as a head of a mission to discuss the issue with President Nasser and tell him to back off from the nationalisation of the Suez Canal.

“When Nasser did not do that and Prime Minister Menzies came back empty-handed, then that influenced Menzies’ attitudes towards Egypt and towards the Arabs. And then from that point, I think Australia pursued a very much pro-Israeli position.”

Party politics

Senior lecturer in International Relations at the University of New South Wales, Dr Anthony Billingsley, says “Israel has become a cause of the conservative side of politics”.

“When I was growing up it was a cause of the left, but it’s swung round now to be a cause of the right in Australia,” he said.

“It also fits into the US relationship. So when the US is looking for people, a UN general assembly resolution might be adopted on Palestine and you’ll have a vote of 180 against three; it’ll be the US, Israel and Australia.

“So it fits into that being nice to the Americans, and helping them out in difficult political situations.”

POLITICS

While Australia and Israel have been clear allies for decades, there is little trade between the countries. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia ranks 23rd on Israel’s top principal export destinations, and 37th on imports. Australia’s total trade with Israel is just over $1 billion.

“That’s where I think the relationship has been underdone, because we haven’t really focused on how we can really benefit one another in terms of interests,” Mr Bergin said.

“I think it’s fair to say Australia has not been a major policy focus of the Israelis.”

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Unlike previous US administrations, successive Australian governments have rarely condemned Israel during the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians.

“I think that the Turnbull leadership, to me, it appears, is really playing to the right-wing elements within the coalition,” Dr Saikal said.

“I think there are people, like Cory Bernardi – who has now gone – but there are other elements within the coalition who are very much supportive of the state of Israel.”

And in the Labor party there is “paralysis basically”, according to Dr Billingsley.

“The Labor party cannot really discuss Israel and the Palestinians in any meaningful way because they just wind up fighting each other.”

Palestinian laborers work at a construction site in a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, Feb. 7, 2017.AP

Lobby groups

Dr Saikal believes there are other influences in the relationship.

“One must not really forget that the pro-Israeli lobby in this country has been very strong over the years and they do have considerable amount of influence on Australian policy towards the Middle East and more specifically, towards the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

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Dr Billingsley agrees that pro-Israeli lobbies have influenced Australian government policies and positions.

“I think they’ve been very effective. I mean they were effective at all levels,” he said.

“I wouldn’t underestimate the inherent sympathy that Australians have for the Jewish plight, and the Jewish history, etc. And the influence of Jews in Australia has been considerable. So there is a historic issue there as well.

“I think the Zionist – if you like – movement in Australia has been very effective in promoting that sort of concern for Israel; the feeling that Israel is always under threat. So I think that also adds to the basis of that support.”

But Mr Bergin disagrees.

“Of course there are groups that promote Israel but there are plenty of groups that also promote the Palestinian cause,” he said.

“What I’d prefer to say quite bluntly is that there’s been bipartisan support for a two-state solution.

“If it became clear that Israel was moving towards a one-state solution, or completely drop attempts to try and get a peace settlement, then that is going to absolutely sap the support in Australia.”

What next?

Dr Amin Saikal says he hopes the Turnbull government uses Mr Netanyahu’s visit to condemn the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

“Both Prime Minister Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop are fully aware of the fact that the settlements are the major obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

“For that reason it is about time that Australia, or the Turnbull government, moderates its position in support of Israel and join the international community in condemning that expansion of the settlements.

“I think the time has come for them to move beyond that position in order to recognise the fact that the settlements are major impediments. Of course the Israeli Prime Minister would say ‘no, this is not a major issue’. It is a critical issue.”

Dr Piggott says she would like to see the government reaffirm its position in support of a two-state solution.

“Beyond continuing to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, deepening Australia–Israel bilateral relations will generate significant benefits in advancing both countries’ national interests,” she said.

“It will be necessary to select areas for cooperation that bring the highest mutual benefit.”

Mr Bergin believes the area of defence offers that.

“Both countries have got strong interests in naval affairs because we’re both close to major choke points along maritime trade routes,” he said.

“We should have a regular strategic dialogue with Israel on everything from developments in Islamist terrorism, to Middle East developments, to nuclear proliferation, to US alliance issues and so forth and the defence industry.”

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Oil Search to bolster spending in PNG

Oil and gas producer Oil Search expects to spend big this year, after returning to profit, with the bulk going on exploration and evaluation projects in Papua New Guinea.

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Oil Search anticipates spending about $US250 million to $US300 million ($A325.8 million-$A391 million) on exploration and evaluation in 2017, part of its forecast capital costs of $US360-$US460 million. It outlaid $US217.6 million in capital costs in 2016.

Managing director Peter Botten says 2017 is shaping up to be “very busy” with development of PNG LNG expansion projects.

A recent gas discovery in Muruk in PNG has further increased options for development, particularly given its proximity to existing infrastructure.

“The Muruk discovery has significantly reduced the uncertainty of a number of leads and prospects on-trend with Muruk, which will be matured further during 2017 and beyond,” Mr Botten said on Tuesday.

Oil Search swung to a net profit of $US89.8 million in 2016, thanks to a three per cent rise in oil and gas production to 30.24 million barrels of oil equivalent (Mboe) and a six per cent lift in sales to 30.59 Mboe.

It also cut unit production costs by 16 per cent to $US8.50 per boe.

The profit also included $US18.7 million, after costs, from a break fee it received from ExxonMobil after losing its bidding war with the energy giant over InterOil.

The 2016 result compares with a net loss of $US39.4 million in 2015.

Excluding one-off items, Oil Search’s 2016 core profit tumbled to $US106.7 million in the 12 months to December 31, from $US359.9 million a year earlier, hurt by lower oil and gas prices.

Oil Search also reaffirmed its 2017 production guidance, with output forecast to come in between 28.5 to 30.5 Mboe.

Oil Search will pay a final dividend of US2.5 cents a share, down from US4 cents a year earlier. That takes its total 2016 dividend to US3.5 cents, down sharply from US10 cents in 2015.

OIL SEARCH SALES HIT BY LOWER OIL AND GAS PRICES

*Swung to a full-year net profit of $US89.8m from a loss of $US39.4m

*Revenue dropped 22pct to $US1.23 billion

*Final dividend of US2.5 cents, down from US4 cents