Week in Brief: 29 April – 5 May 2018

6 May 2018

Week in Brief: 29 April – 5 May 2018

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Story of the week

CBA lost statements of 20 million accounts, didn’t alert customers

The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) admitted to losing the statements of 19.8 million accounts and deciding not to tell customers in an effort to prevent unecessary alarm.

While the bank insists the information did not get into the wrong hands and was most likely destroyed, it has attracted harsh criticism propelled by recent revelations of widespread misconduct in the fianance sector, uncovered by the banking royal commission.

CBA’s Angus Sullivan said it was “unacceptable” but claimed the information did not contain any passwords or PINs that could compromised customers’ accounts.

When the bank understood the magnetic tapes containing the statements was missing, it launched an investigation and notified its regulators, according to Mr Sullivan.

In a statement, Mr Sullivan said: “I want to assure our customers that we have taken the steps necessary to protect their information and we apologise for any concern this incident may cause. The relevant regulators were notified in 2016 and we undertook a thorough forensic investigation, providing further updates to our regulators after its completion.”

Mr Sullivan defended CBA’s choice not to alert its customers, saying the decision was reached after consultation with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

Commentators have condemned CBA’s conduct, criticising the bank for the lack of transparency.


Australia

Government to investigate Telstra triple-zero outage

The Federal Government will conduct an investigation into an incident that caused intermittent interruptions to triple-zero calls on the Telstra network on Friday.

The interruptions began in the early hours of Friday, due to a damaged cable pit located between Bowral and Orange in NSW that is speculated by Telstra to have been caused by a lightning strike.

The cable was one of Telstra’s three major national links on its network, and the outage affected callers, telephone services and EFTPOS machines in all six states.

The cause of the outage is still under speculation, with the Bureau of Meterology confirming that the nearest lightning strike in the Bowral-Orange area occurred 200km from the cable pit.

Cardinal George Pell to stand trial

On Tuesday Victorian Magistrate Belinda Wallington committed Cardinal George Pell to be tried for historical sexual offences.

Cardinal Pell pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

Although the senior Catholic cleric will be tried for some offences, Magistrate Wallington dismissed about half of the charges brought by the prosecution, including the most serious charges, on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for a jury to convict.

Cardinal Pell remains on bail, and has surrendered his passport.

He is the most senior Catholic official to be charged with offences concerning sexual abuse.

Major parties preparing for Federal Budget

Both the Liberal-National Coalition Government and Labor Party Opposition are gearing up for the release of the Federal Budget on Tuesday next week.

The Government is expected to announce further tax cuts, including cutting a small keg tax to make craft beer cheaper, and the continuation of its company tax cuts; that the budget will return to surplus in 2020-21; infrastructure spending, including a $5 billion rail link for Melbourne Airport; $500 million in funding for the Great Barrier Reef; and increased funding for aged care, mental health programs and the new Australian space program.

In the meantime, the Opposition has also been providing a counterpoint by announcing policies to take to the next election on the back of Labor’s recent proposal to limit franking credit refundspromising to axe the GST on tampons, and ending the live cattle export industry in favour of Australian-based processing.

Teammates Ricciardo and Verstappen collide at Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Red Bull teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen collided at high speed at the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, taking both of them out of the race.

Having spent the race embroiled in an on-track battle for fourth place, Ricciardo attempted to overtake Verstappen into turn one at the end of the long pit straight, where cars can reach speeds of 340 km/h.

Both drivers were reprimanded by the race stewards, and Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said they will be made to apologise to the team.

The Australian later admitted his overtaking move was too aggressive, but fans and commentators have criticised Verstappen’s defensive driving for being dangerous.


World

Trump confirms he provided funds for $130K porn star payment

US President Donald Trump, has clarified that he provided the funds for the $130,000 payment from his long-time attorney Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels, reversing previous denials that he had nothing to do with the payment.

The abrupt about-face follows an appearance by Trump’s attorney and former New York mayor Rudy Guliani on the Fox News show Hannity, during which Mr Guliani stated that the money to repay Mr Cohen had been “funnelled … through the law firm and the President repaid it”.

The President took to Twitter to confirm the payment, and that the funds were drawn from non-campaign finances.

China deploys missiles in South China Sea; US to embed troops on HMAS Adelaide

China has deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles in the South China Sea, amidst plans for US soldiers to be embedded on Australian warships in the region.

It was reported by CNBC on Thursday that China had installed the defensive missile systems on three outposts on the Spratly Islands (an archipelago situated between Vietnam, the Phillipines and the island of Borneo) within the past 30 days.

The move prompted a rebuke from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, which said that the Australian Government would be concerned “if the media reports are accurate … because this would be contrary to China’s stated aspiration that it would not militarise [the South China Sea].”

As anxiety grows in the region, it has been revealed that several dozen US marines will be embedded on an Australian warship, HMAS Adelaide, in preparation for “Indo-Pacific Endeavour 18”, an Australian Defence Force Joint Task Group mission to be conducted in Hawaii in July.

Anarchists clash with police in Paris May Day rally

Riot police used water cannons and teargas against more than a thousand anarchists in Paris on Tuesday, after shop windows were smashed and petrol bombs were thrown at an annual rally.

Some 1,200 protesters dressed in black and wearing hoods and masks disrupted the rally.

In many countries May 1 is Labour Day, held in honour of working people.

Authorities had warned of clashes with anarchist groups known as “Black Blocs”, after calls to make Tuesday a “revolutionary day” gained traction on social media.

More than 200 arrests were made. Shops were ransacked, cars were torched, and anti-capitalist graffiti was scrawled on walls.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb condemned the violence and stated that authorities were doing everything they could to arrest the perpetrators.

Massive storm hits northern India

A massive storm hit the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan on Wednesday night, killing more than 90 people and injuring at least 160 people.

High winds and heavy rain took down power poles, destroyed houses, uprooted trees and blocked roads in the state.

In the city of Agra, 43 people died with winds reaching 130 km/h.

The storm took people by surprise, as the monsoon season is not expected for another six weeks.

Sex scandals see expulsions from Oscars roster, cancellation of Nobel Prize

Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski have been expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, while the Nobel Prize in Literature will be scrapped for this year after the Swedish Academy was embroiled in sex abuse allegations.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the decision to expel Mr Cosby (who was convicted last week for a sexual assault that occurred in 2004) and Mr Polanski (who unlawfully had sex with a 13 year old in 1977) on Thursday.

These are the third and fourth expulsions from the Academy, following actor Carmine Caridi (expelled in 2004 for distributing copies of films sent to Academy members), and Harvey Weinstein (the producer expelled in October whose sexual abuse allegations sparked the #MeToo movement).

Meanwhile, the Swedish Academy, the Royal Academy that selects the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, has been rocked by claims of sexual assault from 18 women against Jean-Claude Arnault, a member who runs a cultural centre previously funded by the Academy.

Mr Arnault has also been accused of leaking the names of winners of the Nobel Prize seven times, starting in 1996.

The Swedish Academy has announced that the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature will instead be announced in 2019.