Across the Ditch: News from Australia

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has re-entered the gun debate. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has re-entered the gun debate. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Costly plebiscite

New research suggests a stand-alone plebiscite on same-sex marriage would cost Australia more than half a billion dollars. The modelling by accounting firm PwC Australia found a compulsory vote on marriage equality would cost the Australian economy A$525 million ($589 million). It estimates that a plebiscite not held on the same day as a federal election would cost the taxpayer A$158 million to organise, A$66 million for the community to fund the for and against campaigns and A$281 million in lost productivity as people take time out to vote. In addition, PwC Australia estimates at least A$20 million in costs associated with the impact on the mental health and wellbeing of Australians. PwC Australia CEO Luke Sayers called instead for a parliamentary vote as the best mechanism for change. The modelling found that a parliamentary vote involving campaigning but no plebiscite would cost only A$17 million.

Journalists detained

An ABC Four Corners crew trying to question Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak over a corruption scandal has been detained by police. Reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louie Eroglu were arrested in the city of Kuching on Saturday night after approaching Razak on the street, the ABC reports. Both were released without charge on Sunday but have been told not to leave the country. Their passports were seized but later returned. A police statement obtained by the AFP news agency said they were held after they crossed a "security line and aggressively tried to approach the prime minister". The programme's executive producer Sally Neighbour said on Twitter the arrest was related to the crew's reporting of corruption allegations involving Razak. Malaysian news agency Bernama quoted national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar as saying officials would discuss with the attorney-general's chambers whether to charge the pair.

Territory rescue

Seven people will be rescued today after their bogged car was found in Queensland's northwest. The group, including two children, left Mt Isa last Thursday and had planned to travel to Lake Nash in the Northern Territory but never arrived. A search helicopter found their bogged vehicle near Camooweal on Sunday night and all seven are safe, and have food and water while they await rescue.

Howard aims at US

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has re-entered the US gun debate, declaring it is "incontestable" gun-related homicides fell significantly after he introduced strict laws following the Port Arthur massacre. Speaking to CBS, Howard said he was compelled to act after 35 people were gunned down at the Tasmanian historical site in 1996. "It is incontestable that gun-related homicides have fallen quite significantly in Australia, incontestable," Howard said. "I mean, if you had 13 mass shootings before Port Arthur and you had none since, isn't that evidence? And you had a 74 per cent fall in the gun-related suicide rates, isn't that evidence? Or are we expected to believe that that was all magically going to happen? Come on." Howard, who is regularly called upon by the US media to explain Australia's gun laws, said: "People used to say to me, 'You violated my human rights by taking away my gun'. And I'd (say), 'I understand that. Will you please understand the argument, the greatest human right of all is to live a safe life without fear of random murder'."

- AAP

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