Saudi king orders reopening of Qatar border to pilgrims

The Salwa border crossing had been shut after regional kingpin Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt, Bahrain and the United  Arab Emirates severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing the emirate of fostering Islamist extremist groups.


The announcement to reopen the border for Qatari pilgrims came after Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received an envoy from Doha, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, in the first public high-level encounter between the nations after the crisis erupted.

The king has permitted “the entry of Qatari pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through Salwa border crossing to perform hajj, and to allow all Qatari nationals who wish to enter for hajj without electronic permits”, a statement on SPA said.

Saudi King Salman, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. AAP

He also ordered that private jets belonging to Saudi airlines be sent to Doha airport “to bring all Qatari pilgrims on his expenses”.

The crown prince emphasised the “historical relations between Saudi and Qatari people” after his meeting with Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani, the statement added.

Saudi Arabia had last month said that Qataris wanting to perform this year’s hajj would be allowed to enter the kingdom, but imposed certain restrictions including that those arriving by plane must use airlines in agreement with Riyadh.

Qatari authorities had subsequently accused Saudi Arabia of politicising hajj and jeopardising the pilgrimage to Mecca by refusing to guarantee their pilgrims’ safety.

Some observers cautioned that the diplomatic crisis was far from over despite the apparent bonhomie.

“This is a goodwill gesture towards the Qatari people and not a breakthrough with the Qatari govt,” Ali Shihabi from the Washington-based think tank Arabia Foundation said on Twitter, referring to the reopening of the border.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies shut down air, maritime and land links with Qatar, and imposed economic sanctions, accusing Doha of supporting “terrorists” and of being too close to their regional nemesis Iran.

Qatar denied the allegations and denounced what it called a “blockade” aimed at bringing the wealthy emirate to its knees.

The tiny emirate with a population of 2.6 million, 80 percent of them foreigners, ranks as the world’s richest on a per capita basis, according to the International Monetary Fund.


It holds a staggering $330 billion in a sovereign wealth fund, with assets heavily invested abroad.

The hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in a lifetime, is to take place this year at the beginning of September.

More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year’s hajj. The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims who can must perform it at least once in their lives.

Week more taxing for Joyce than Labor

It would appear Scott Morrison is already in election mode.


In a parliamentary week overshadowed by talk of by-elections, and even an early national vote, the treasurer was honing his attack on Labor with a campaign-style stunt.

It could take months for the High Court to determine if Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is eligible to remain in the parliament – after he found out he was New Zealander – leaving the government’s one-seat majority in the balance.

Whether it was an attempted distraction or fearing the worst, Morrison burst into the week claiming families and small business would feel the brunt of a $167 billion tax hit under a Labor government.

Favoured media outlets were given what was claimed to be “independent new modelling” – but in essence was a compilation of year-old Parliamentary Budget Office costings and Treasury projections – of Labor’s “tax blizzard”.

“Under Bill Shorten, there would be a tax winter coming to this country,” Morrison warned in a Game of Thrones-style threat.

The treasurer’s figuring included Labor’s rejection of the government’s $65 billion 10-year business tax plan, including a repeal of tax cuts already approved by parliament.

Morrison’s hit list also includes $32 billion from “scrapping negative gearing”, but doesn’t mention the tax break would apply to new properties and existing arrangements will be protected from the change.

Then there were the $20 billion of “secret” Labor superannuation changes, along with alterations to capital gains tax, family trusts and the top marginal tax rate

The PBO wasn’t impressed, insisting it had no part in the so-called modelling.

In a rare political intervention, agency head Jenny Wilkinson said: “The analysis reported in the media this morning was not conducted by the PBO.”

While the government continued to talk about Labor’s $150 billion-plus tax grab as a fact, the opposition dismissed it as a desperate scare campaign.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the parliamentary term was barely a year old and the treasurer has been reduced to making stuff up.

It’s reminiscent of previous election stunts.

During the 2016 election, Morrison drew banner headlines claiming Labor had a $67 billion “black hole” in its costings that would increase to a staggering $200 billion over the next decade.

But in a media conference that was meant to push home the point, the treasurer admitted $35 billion was flexible if the opposition changed its mind on some measures.

Suddenly the $67 billion became a worst-case scenario.

Labor is no innocent, having been previously caught over-egging numbers.

In the 2013 election, Labor claimed there was a $10 billion hole in the coalition’s proposed election savings, citing figures from Treasury, Finance and the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Later it was revealed the analysis was based on earlier work by the departments.

In an extraordinary move, the heads of Treasury and Finance distanced themselves from Labor’s statements, saying they had never assessed any coalition policies.

Some things never change, unlike the heritage of parliamentarians, apparently.

Lighter gloves spell quick end of Mayweather, says McGregor

“That was a good thing for me.


I’m very happy with it,” McGregor told reporters on a conference call.

Mayweather had nearly all of his 49 professional wins using eight-ounce gloves, which may accentuate one of his advantages – his hand speed.

McGregor preferred the lighter gloves since he is used to the fingerless, four-ounce gloves typically worn in MMA.

“That’s it in a nutshell, you’ve got pros and cons on both sides,” he said. “Favours us both in certain ways.

“I believe now that the gloves are eight ounces, I don’t believe he makes it out of the second round,” McGregor added.

“Part of me … kind of wants to show some skills and dismantle him that way. (But) I do not foresee him absorbing the blows in the first two rounds.”

While most pundits have McGregor, who has never boxed professionally, as a heavy underdog, the Dubliner said he was determined to prove the doubters wrong.

“I’m just looking forward to Aug. 26, going in and proving what I’m saying and educating the world on what martial arts is,” he said. “And earning my respect in this game also.”

The Irishman said his gruelling preparations for the fight would enable him to triumph no matter how the fight develops.

“There is no way in hell that I am not ready to fight in the deepest of trenches in this contest,” McGregor added.

“The training sessions and the practice that we’ve been putting in has been through hell and back. We are ready for absolutely every scenario.

“I’m ready to go to war for the full 12 rounds and I am ready to put him away in the first 10 seconds. That’s where my head’s at.”

Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), followed McGregor on the conference call and predicted the fight could even threaten the reported $600 million haul from the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao 2015 showdown.

“This is the biggest event ever in combat sports history. This is the most distributed event in pay-per-view history,” White said, also citing the additional digital reach.

“This thing is in like 200 countries on pay-per-view. Boxing doesn’t usually do a lot of digital. If you’re in Manhattan or on a desert island somewhere, if you have Wifi you can buy this fight.”

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

David Jones under fire for apologising to customer critical of black model

One of Australia’s largest retailers has copped a barrage of social media criticism for apologising to a customer who complained about the use of a black model on a catalogue cover.


Sudanese-Australian Adut Akech, 17, fronts David Jones’ Summer Beauty catalogue, launched in Sydney last week.

Her placement led a Gold Coast woman to post on the retailer’s Facebook wall on Tuesday, complaining that Akech was unrepresentative of Australia’s general population.

“How on earth am I expected to relate to this cover?” the woman wrote.


“I can’t wear any of her make-up, I don’t know ANYONE who looks like her…she could have been used on the back page…[by the way] did you even notice the irony? On the opening page you have a section on fake tans.

“You people have really missed the mark here, and I’m pissed off and sick of big companys [sic] going for the minority feel good. Please think about your shoppers next time.”

David Jones responded by telling the customer the company was “so sorry you feel this way”.

“We have passed your feedback on to our Marketing Department for their information and consideration,” the reply concluded.

The woman’s post has been removed by David Jones, however not before attracting more than 400 reactions, 350 comments and 47 shares. 

Customer comments condemned David Jones’ initial response.

“Why are you apologising to someone for hate speech?” customer Katrina Bicket asked.

“DJ’s show some character and backbone, and stop pandering to prejudiced people,” Elvy Golden-Brown wrote.

“You should have stood up for your choice and defended your beautiful model, not grovelled to someone with the ridiculous idea that only models whose skin color they can relate to are acceptable on your cover.”

A statement said David Jones’ reply was not appropriate and made by a staff member “without enough thought as to how it could be misinterpreted”.

“We have not, and will never, apologise for representing the diverse make up of the Australian community in our marketing materials or campaigns. This is at heart of our values as a company,” the statement said.  

Adelaide’s Akech is a fast-rising star of world fashion, having spent the last three seasons appearing exclusively for Saint Laurent including earlier this year at Paris Fashion Week.

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Rally victim’s message magnified: mother

With tears and defiant tributes, hundreds of purple-clad people have packed a Charlottesville theatre to remember the woman who was killed when a suspected white nationalist crashed his car into anti-racist demonstrators.


Heather Heyer, 32, a paralegal whom colleagues said was devoted to social justice, was killed after clashes on Saturday between white nationalists attending a “Unite the Right” gathering and counter-protesters.

James Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio man, has been charged with her murder.

“They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well guess what? You just magnified her,” Heyer’s mother Susan Bro said to long and loud applause from those gathered at the city’s 1930s-era Paramount Theater.

“I want this to spread. I don’t want this to die. This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy.”

In the crowd were Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, US Senator Tim Kane and Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer.

Many of those in attendance wore purple, her favourite colour, at the request of Heyer’s family.

Hundreds of people held lit candles and sang songs in Charlottesville later on Wednesday night to remember Heyer at what was billed as a vigil for unity.

Fallout from Heyer’s death and the street fights among protesters has become President Donald Trump’s biggest domestic challenge.

Trump was assailed from across the political spectrum over his responses blaming “many sides” for the violence.

Residents of the usually quiet, left-leaning Virginia city were horrified by the violence they said was brought by outsiders.

White nationalists called Saturday’s rally to protest against plans to remove a statue of General Robert E Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army in the US Civil War.

Amid concerns trouble could erupt outside Wednesday’s memorial, a small group of anti-racist protesters wearing pink helmets and carrying baseball bats and purple shields stood quietly near the theatre.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump described Heyer as “beautiful and incredible … a truly special young woman. She will be long remembered by all!”

Senate slams ABC cut to shortwave radio

The ABC has been slammed by all sides of politics over its “foolish” decision to cut the transmission of shortwave radio to remote Australia and the Pacific Islands.


The Senate debated a private bill on Thursday by crossbench senator Nick Xenophon to force the ABC to restore transmission after it was cut earlier this year.

“It seems a terrible decision that’s been made by the ABC board,” Senator Xenophon told parliament, accusing the public broadcaster of ignoring the bush and Australia’s neighbours.

The ABC insists listeners can still tune in via FM and AM frequencies, the viewer access satellite television (VAST) service and online.

But senators say the ABC fails to understand those alternative methods are not available to everyone in the bush and the information people are missing out on can be life threatening, such as weather warnings.

Senator Xenophon said the ABC had miscalculated how many people relied on the service.

“There are some question marks over the methodology used by the ABC in relation to this.”

The South Australian senator warned Australia was “foolish” to retreat from the Pacific region by cutting shortwave radio just as other countries like China were expanding shortwave services in the region.

“That footprint is a form of soft diplomacy that is very effective, it wins hearts and minds in the region,” he said.

Truck drivers in the outback, remote indigenous communities and those in the Pacific no longer had access to Radio Australia.

“But they’ll be able to get Radio China – that is wrong,” Senator Xenophon said.

Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie lashed out at the ABC’s “short-sighted” decision, insisting it had not provided credible evidence as to why the decision was made.

“The ABC has effectively abandoned huge areas of the Northern Territory.”

Labor senator for the Northern Territory Malarndirri McCarthy pleaded with the ABC to reverse its “mistake”, insisting it had left Australians in remote communities completely isolated and suffering.

“It is absolutely dire.”

The Greens said the bill would interfere with the ABC’s independence and blamed the decision on government funding cuts.

‘They tried to kill my child to shut her up’: Tears and tributes at Charlottesville memorial

Speaking at the memorial service, Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, urged forgiveness and said her daughter’s death would serve to fight injustice.


“They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,” Bro said.

President Donald Trump, a day after coming under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike for saying the anti-racism protestors were equally to blame for the Charlottesville violence, issued a tweet praising Heyer.

“Memorial service today for beautiful and incredible Heather Heyer, a truly special young woman,” Trump said.

Susan Bro, mother to Heather Heyer, spoke during a memorial for her daughter in Charlottesville, Va. aap

Confederate statues removed

Meanwhile, Confederate monuments were removed overnight in Baltimore, Maryland, and other US cities as a campaign to erase symbols of the pro-slavery Civil War South gathered momentum across the United States.

The removal of the monuments came four days after clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia that stemmed from a rally called by white supremacists to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park.

City workers remove graffiti from the base of what was once the Jackson-Lee Monument, a Confederate statue that city workers removed overnight in Baltimore.AAP

Former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush issued a veiled rebuke of the current occupant of the White House.

“America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms,” they said in a joint statement.

In Baltimore, workers overnight loaded statues of Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, and one of his top generals, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, on a flatbed truck and carted them away.

‘Get it done and move forward’

Also removed overnight was a Confederate Women’s Monument, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument and a statue of a former Supreme Court justice, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Justice Robert B. Taney was responsible for the 1857 Dred Scott ruling that African-Americans did not have a right to US citizenship.

“Black Lives Matter” was spray-painted in black on the stone base where the Lee-Jackson statues stood after they were uprooted by a crane.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said the city had not yet decided what to do with the statues now they have been removed.

Speaking on CNN, the mayor said the operation began around 11.30pm on Tuesday night and finished at around 5.00am on Wednesday.

“People are rallying all across this nation wanting Confederate statues to be taken down,” Pugh said. “Let’s just get it done and move forward.”

The Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday that a monument to Confederate veterans had been removed from the city’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

According to the newspaper, the monument was erected in 1925 in a section of the cemetery devoted to Confederate veterans of the 1861-1865 Civil War.

In New York, a plaque honoring Lee was removed from St John’s Episcopal Church in Brooklyn on Wednesday.

The plaque was erected in 1912 by the United Daughters of Confederacy at the base of a tree planted by Lee.

Debate over removing Confederate icons has been simmering in the United States for years as the country examines its complicated racial past.

‘How about Thomas Jefferson?’ 

The fate of many symbols has been tied up in the courts, but demonstrators in the North Carolina city of Durham took matters into their own hands on Monday and tore down a statue to a Confederate soldier.

In a report published in April 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — a civil rights advocacy group — found that more than 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy are located on US public lands, mostly in the South.

According to historians and the SPLC report, most Confederate monuments were erected during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation and in response to the civil rights movement.

Defenders of preserving the Confederate symbols argue that they serve as a reminder of a proud Southern heritage, and that removing them is effectively a way of erasing history.

Trump said Tuesday that the fate of Confederate monuments should be left to local authorities.

But he appeared to personally oppose the removal campaign.

“You’re changing history. You’re changing culture,” Trump said.  

“George Washington was a slave owner. Are we going to take down statues to George Washington?” Trump asked. “How about Thomas Jefferson?”

During the US Civil War, Maryland remained in the union although pro-slavery sentiment was strong.

Memorial service today for beautiful and incredible Heather Heyer, a truly special young woman. She will be long remembered by all!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017

Baltimore has a population of around 614,000, 63 percent of whom are African-American, according to the 2016 US census.

The city was rocked by violent protests in April 2015 following the death in police custody of a young black man, Freddie Gray.


Retired judge who paved way for same-sex marriage in US delivers verdict on Australian plebiscite

Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, now retired, was responsible for a landmark 2003 ruling that denying same sex couples the right to marry was a violation of their constitutional rights.



“I wouldn’t judge another nation,” she said of Australia’s upcoming postal survey on same-sex marriage, “but I am surprised that people anywhere in the world don’t understand yet what it means for people to love one another.

“It doesn’t matter what their gender, what their origins, where they come from,” she added

“I just hope that we won’t have to wait for too much longer before everyone in the world can be in love with and marry who they choose to.”

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She was speaking to SBS World News at the London revival of a Pulitzer-prize winning play, ‘Angels in America’, which tackles fear and prejudice at the height of the 1980s AIDS crisis. 

At the premiere performance on August 16, the cast of the self-described “gay fantasia” gave Chief Justice Marshall a standing ovation.

She was immediately mobbed by tearful members of the audience. 

“Thank you,” were the only words most could muster.

Backstage, actor James McArdle, who portrays the character Louis Ironson in the play, recited the most famous passage of her 50-page judgement. 

“Civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”

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Mr McArdle was less diplomatic about the tone of Australia’s same sex marriage debate.

“The fact that this has been given to the public as ‘an opinion’ I think is an insult. I really think it’s insulting. The fact we’re even having this discussion I think will be an embarrassment in years to come.”

Same sex marriage has been legal in England, Wales and Scotland since 2013.

A decade before her landmark ruling, Margaret Marshall sat in the very same theatre for the premiere of ‘Angels in America’ – a form of artistic activism, transporting audiences to 1980s America and the height of the AIDS crisis.

It had a profound, personal impact, so she returned 25 years later, to witness its 21st Century revival.

The former Chief Justice told SBS that many of its themes – sexuality, race, gender, inequality, nationalism, fear and prejudice – remain just as fraught today.

“I think there is a hint of sadness that everything still feels as if we have so far to go,” she said.  

Australians will have the chance to watch the UK revival of ‘Angels in America’ when the two-part, eight-hour performance is beamed live from the National Theatre to cinemas across the country throughout September.

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New balls please: Kyrgios marches on

Nick Kyrgios has fought back to beat Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov and advance to the third round of the Cincinnati Masters.


Kyrgios recovered from dropping an early break in the first set to win 6-3 7-6 (8-6) in a match which saw both players bemused to learn they had been serving with women’s balls for six points.

While the balls used on the men’s and women’s tour generally have the same size and pressure, the men usually use extra-duty felt to slow the speed of the ball down while the women use regular-duty balls which have a different logo.

It was Dolgopolov who initially noticed the telltale red marking before alerting the umpire. Kyrgios then noticed a ball in his possession was the same before realising it wasn’t just one.

“What are you guys doing,” the Australian was heard to ask. “Christ almighty.”

Kyrgios had started strongly on serve but soon found himself down 3-1 in the first set after double-faulting to gift Dolgopolov the first break of the match.

The world No.23 then immediately returned the favour and didn’t drop another game to take the opening set and next faces unseeded Croatian Ivo Karlovic.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, top-seeded Rafael Nadal accounted for Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 to set up a round of 16 showdown with Spanish countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Nadal had beaten Gasquet in all 14 previous meetings and that never looked like changing as the Frenchman could not break his served once.

Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev was the day’s biggest casualty after he lost 4-6 6-3 6-4 to American wildcard Frances Tiafoe.

“These are wins that definitely can change your career the right way,” Tiafoe said.

Zverev won back-to-back titles in Washington and Montreal, leaving him little time to rest.

“I’m completely dead right now,” 20-year-old Zverev said.

“I have been dead for the past two days.”

Seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov will meet former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro after beating Feliciano Lopez in straight sets.

Other players to advance to the next round were David Ferrer, Karen Khachanov, Pablo Carreno, Adrian Mannarino, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Jared Donaldson and Yuichi Sugita.

Joyce should ‘do the right thing’ and stand aside, says Shorten

Malcolm Turnbull is standing by the deputy prime minister as parliament wraps up after a fortnight of sittings.


Mr Joyce has been referred to the court to test whether his New Zealand citizenship by descent disqualifies him from sitting in parliament under section 44 of the constitution.

“I think Barnaby Joyce should do the right thing, let the nation move on from this constitutional crisis that he and his colleagues have embroiled us in,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“He shouldn’t be exercising responsibilities as a minister when we found out that he was a dual citizen.”

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Mr Shorten said the government had failed to explain why another cabinet minister Matt Canavan, who has also been referred to the High Court over his eligibility, had stood aside while Mr Joyce had not.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Scott Morrison said Labor had been “sneaky” in working with NZ Labour colleagues to undermine Mr Joyce.

It was revealed this week an NZ Labour MP had asked a question in the New Zealand parliament about a scenario similar to that of Mr Joyce.

The query came after he discussed the citizenship issue with a staffer of Labor senator Penny Wong.

“Rather than come into the parliament and raise these questions, what they have done, in a very sneaky way, is run around over there in another country and try and dredge this stuff up,” Mr Morrison said.

Labor MP Rob Mitchell brandished a tinfoil hat on Thursday morning, telling reporters Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – who championed the conspiracy argument in parliament – had lost the plot.

Media inquiries had already been under way when the NZ MP raised his query.

Another minister, Michael Keenan, rejected media reports he held dual nationality, insisting he renounced his British ties in 2004 before he entered parliament.

Fairfax Media had reported Mr Keenan may be a British citizen courtesy of his father Peter, who was born in England in 1943 and emigrated to Australia, where he married.

NZ Minister talks timeline

The timeline of events that led to Mr Joyce finding out he was a New Zealand citizen has been confirmed for the first time.

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said his department told him late on Thursday afternoon Mr Joyce’s situation had been uncovered as a result of checks following Australian media inquiries.

“Given who he was, Foreign Affairs had been advised and had taken over the diplomatic management of it,” he told RNZ.

New Zealand politician Peter Dunne addresses the media in 2013 in Wellington, New Zealand. AP

“They in turn advised the High Commissioner in Canberra, who broke the delightful news to Mr Joyce… as I understand it, it was either late Thursday evening or Friday morning our time that Mr Joyce was informed.”

Mr Dunne said he spent the weekend expecting the story to break at any moment in Australia, but that didn’t happen until Mr Joyce announced it to federal parliament on Monday.

The minister reiterated the first inquiries came from Australian media.

“The facts show that inquiries into the possibility of there being people in the Australian parliament who might have been New Zealand citizens unwittingly were initiated by the Australian media.”

Mr Dunne said Labour MP Chris Hipkins, who submitted written parliamentary questions to Mr Dunne about citizenship by descent, was “part of the process later on but he didn’t initiate the whole process”.

Mr Hipkins has been reprimanded by opposition party leader Jacinda Ardern for getting involved in the issue, which has caused fierce debate in Australia.

It’s now known he submitted the questions after a call from a senior Australian Labor Party staffer – Marcus Ganley, who works for Opposition Labor foreign affairs spokesperson Senator Penny Wong.

Senator Wong has said Mr Ganley and Mr Hipkins had a discussion about the citizenship issue – which she wasn’t aware of at the time – and thatthe New Zealand MP was not asked to put in parliamentary questions.

Mr Hipkins’ involvement led Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to say she would have a problem trusting a New Zealand Labour-led government.

Mr Joyce has renounced his New Zealand citizenship and his parliamentart fate will be decided by the Australian High Court.

Australia’s constitution bars citizens of another country from standing for parliament.