UK on heightened alert after terror arrests

Just weeks after the attack on the Houses of Parliament that left five people dead and scores injured, London is once again on high alert as Britain prepares for a snap election on June 8.

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“Yesterday was an extraordinary day in London,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said, after confirming six arrests overnight.

“I wanted to reassure the public that this increased level of terrorist activity is being matched by our action… We are making arrests on a near daily basis.”

A 27-year-old man remains in custody after being arrested near parliament on suspicion of terrorism offences and possession of knives, in what police confirmed had been an ongoing investigation.

Just hours later, armed police raided a property in north London as part of an unrelated counter-terrorism investigation, firing CS gas as they entered and shooting a woman in her 20s.

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Six people have been arrested as part of the probe, while the woman – who is also suspected of involvement – remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

“Due to these arrests that have been made yesterday, in both cases I believe we have contained the threats that they posed,” Basu said.

Suspect ‘tracked to Westminster’

Britain’s national terror threat level has been at “severe”, meaning an attack is highly likely, since August 2014 — and remained unchanged after the attack on parliament on March 22.

Khalid Masood drove a car through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into the gates of parliament. He ran inside and knifed to death a policeman, before being shot.

Police have said they may never know why he did it.

The man arrested on Thursday, metres from parliament and Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street residence, had reportedly been tracked by police and the domestic intelligence agency MI5.

Newspaper reports said he had been followed as he travelled into Westminster, in an investigation that originally began with a tip-off by someone close to him.

“They stopped and searched him as part of an ongoing counter-terrorism investigation,” Basu said, without giving further details.

An AFP photographer saw firearms officers surrounding the bearded man and pinning him to the ground, before putting him in handcuffs.

Construction worker David Wisniowski, who was working on a building site next to the incident, told AFP he saw “three knives on the floor, one big one and two small”.

‘Debt of gratitude’

Hours later in Harlesden, a suburb in north London, armed police launched an unrelated counter-terrorism operation that resulted in six arrests overnight, five in the area and one in Kent, southeast England.

The address had been under observation and the woman who was shot was one of the subjects of the investigation, Basu said.

“Her condition is serious but stable. Because of her condition she has not yet been arrested. We are monitoring her condition closely,” he said, adding that the police watchdog had been informed.

During an election campaign speech on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to the police and security services, saying they were owed “a huge debt of gratitude”.

Terrorism has yet to feature heavily in the campaign for the June 8 vote, although May’s Conservatives have sought to exploit the anti-nuclear stance of opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed the leftist leader “seems to have no grasp of the need for this country to be strong in the world”.

 

Government ‘can’t guarantee’ gas prices will halve under new powers

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has hit back at Labor claims he pledged wholesale gas prices would halve under his short-term solution to address looming domestic supply shortages.

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Mr Turnbull has been under pressure about remarks he made when announcing export controls to protect domestic supplies.

“People” were being offered prices of $20 a gigajoule in Australia and under the new regime it should be about half that amount or less, he said.

Watch: Turnbull making it up as he goes along, Butler says

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Mr Turnbull later clarified the comments by insisting he was talking about wholesale prices, saying the main benefits would flow to businesses that relied heavily on gas.

But Labor leader Bill Shorten queried whether the prime minister was falsely promising to halve gas prices for households.

Mr Turnbull on Friday insisted the new measures would put “downward pressure” on wholesale prices, which made up 15-20 per cent of household bills.

And the “people” he was referring to were manufacturers.

“(Bill) Shorten misrepresented me as he always does,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

Watch: Shorten challenges Turnbull on gas prices

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Earlier Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg defended Mr Turnbull, saying he had been misquoted.

“The prime minister never said that prices will halve for all gas users,” he told ABC radio from Washington, where he is meeting his US counterparts.

“We can’t guarantee price in relation to any industry but what we can guarantee is this mechanism will put more gas into the domestic market.”

Under new regulations, if an exporter draws more from the domestic market than they put in they will need to show how they will fill the shortfall as part of their overall production and exports.

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The government will not prescribe how the gas exporters fill the shortfall.

Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler says manufacturers deserve to know the impact of the new policy.

“Malcolm Turnbull is either making it up as he goes along or he lied,” he told reporters in Adelaide.

The Australian Pipelines and Gas Association says the real issue is too little gas is being produced to meet demand.

“There must be a concerted effort across commonwealth, state and territory governments to identify all opportunities to increase gas exploration and production,” chief executive Peter Greenwood said.

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Manufacturing Australia executive director Ben Eade, who met Mr Turnbull on Thursday, agreed more work was needed to boost supply that would push down gas prices.

If the government did not act it would affect jobs not only in manufacturing but agriculture, food, infrastructure and housing, he said.

RELATED: Industrial gas prices rising since 2002

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IPL huge benefit to England hopes: Vaughan

Former Test captain Michael Vaughan believes Indian Premier League exposure will give England an edge in their bid to win a first major 50-over tournament when the Champions Trophy begins in June.

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The Indian 20-over competition features the world’s top limited-overs stars and Vaughan says that cannot help but be a boost to England’s prospects in the shorter formats.

“Playing in the IPL is a tremendous experience. It should’ve been done years ago,” he said.

“Kevin Pietersen was right. He was completely right in terms of saying the England players should’ve been allowed to play a lot more.

“I think it’s going to move England on, I think it has. Most of the one-day team have been given this opportunity to play in (Australia’s) Big Bash and now they’ve got the IPL.

“I think it just furthers their white-ball education. I can’t see anything but positives.

“England players should be involved in these types of leagues and if it means they miss a couple of Ireland games, I’m all for it.”

England named a 15-man squad on Tuesday for the Champions Trophy, which for the hosts begins against Bangladesh at The Oval on June 1, following a one-day series against South Africa.

England reached the final in 2004 and 2013 when hosting the competition but Vaughan says the current squad, which includes new Test skipper Joe Root, are more capable of success.

“The last two Champions Trophies here we’ve not had a great team and we’ve managed to sneak to the final by default, really. Whereas this team are a really good team,” he said.

“They’ve certainly got all the tools and ingredients to win, but you don’t just win on paper.

“Joe Root said yesterday ‘this is a great chance for England to win a tournament’. So they all know that they’ve got enough. It’s just whether they can deliver.”

India are the holders, but political posturing has placed some doubt on their participation.

“I think it’s becoming quite consistent that India flex their muscles at times,” Vaughan said.

“(But) they’ll fancy their chances, so they’ll certainly be here.”

Violence erupts as protesters storm Macedonia parliament

An AFP reporter saw Zoran Zaev, who leads the main opposition Social Democrats, with blood on his face in the chaos, while Macedonian media quoting hospital sources said ten people were injured, including two deputies.

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The violence erupted after around 100 protesters supporting the rival VMRO-DPMNE party entered parliament waving Macedonian flags and singing the national anthem.

AFP photos and footage on local TV showed at least one masked man inside the building.

“I condemn the attacks on MPs in Skopje in the strongest terms. Violence has NO place in Parliament. Democracy must run its course,” said European Union Commissioner Johannes Hahn on Twitter.

The incident follows months of political deadlock in the Balkan country, where demonstrators have been holding nightly rallies in the capital since an inconclusive December election.

Protestors storm the Parliament after Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (AAP)AAP

They oppose a proposed coalition between Zaev’s Social Democrats (SDSM) and ethnic Albanians, which they perceive as a threat to national unity.

According to local media, Thursday’s incident broke out after the SDSM and Albanian parties voted in a new parliamentary speaker although the former speaker had closed the day’s session.

Their chosen speaker, Talat Xhaferi, is ethnic Albanian.

For a decade until last year, Macedonia was ruled by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE and its leader Nikola Gruevski.

December’s election saw the party secure 51 seats in the 120-seat parliament — or two more than the SDSM, but the conservatives failed to reach a deal with kingmaking Albanian parties.

Although Zaev then reached an agreement with the Albanian groups, President Gjorge Ivanov refused to give him a mandate to form a government.

An ally of Gruevski, the president expressed concern over the controversial demand of Albanian parties that Albanian be made an official language across Macedonia.

Critics of the demand fear it could lead to the break-up of the small country of around two million people, about a quarter of whom are ethnic Albanians.

The EU and the United States have urged Ivanov to reverse his decision, while Macedonia’s opposition has warned its conservative rivals that they are playing with fire by using the ethnic card in a bid to stay in power.

The vote was supposed to end two years of political upheaval in Macedonia, sparked by a huge wiretapping scandal, but it has only served to deepen the crisis.

The former Yugoslav republic aspires to join both NATO and the EU.

Gruevski called for people to “calm down” after Thursday’s trouble.

“People should not respond to provocations of the SDSM and those who want to push the state into even deeper crisis,” he said on Facebook.

Kangaroos on notice after veterans dumped

North Melbourne skipper Jack Ziebell believes the decision to axe Andrew Swallow and Lindsay Thomas has sent a powerful message to the winless AFL team.

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Ziebell feels for the out-of-form veterans but agrees Kangaroos players have been put on notice ahead of Saturday’s clash against Gold Coast.

“I think it sends a message to everyone at our footy club that there’s no individual who is bigger than the club … if you’re not doing what’s required then we’ll bring someone in who can,” Ziebell said on Friday.

“I think for our young guys that’s a pretty powerful message.

“We’ve got a lot of guys doing really well in the reserves at the moment and opportunities aren’t far away.

“When you’re 0-5 change is inevitable.”

The Roos’ last-gasp loss to Fremantle last week was their third of the season by a margin of five points or less.

It continued a worrying trend of close losses under Brad Scott, but Ziebell said it was down to the players to take responsibility when a match is in the balance.

“When the game’s tight we need to make sure we stand up and get the job done,” he said.

“We’ve been in every game this year and been in control of some and should’ve capitalised but didn’t.

“But we understand why we haven’t and how we can change that.

“For our group that will give them a lot of confidence that next time we get in that position we can get it done.”

Important forward Shaun Higgins and former Hawk Jed Anderson were included to face the Suns, who sit 12th on the ladder with a 2-3 record.

Gold Coast rested David Swallow for the Etihad Stadium clash and recalled Jesse Lonergan.

Rodney Eade’s men are coming off a 67-point thumping by Adelaide, but return to the scene of their last win – against Carlton in round four – when co-captain Tom Lynch kicked seven goals.

“I think Tom is an absolute star of the competition … we’ll definitely be doing everything we can to halt his momentum,” Ziebell said.

“(Not only) down back but also with some pressure on the ball to try and hamper that delivery.

“(But) they’ve very talented across all lines and when they put it together they’re very hard to beat.”