A video feed from the studio showed the conservative leader winking and grinning to the programme's host when the female caller revealed what she did to make ends meet, as she complained about swingeing budget cuts imposed by Abbott's government. Abbott, who was the target of a fiery misogyny speech by former leader Julia Gillard that went viral in 2012, said the wink was to signal he was happy to proceed with the call. Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten said Abbott had lost touch with the electorate. "We need a minister for women who is actually a woman and who is prepared to stand up for women -- not simply dismiss their problems with a wink and a smirk," Greens Senator Larissa Waters said.
South Korea's opposition parties are expected to reap an election bonanza from seething public anger over the government's mishandling of the ferry disaster as campaigning for next month's local polls opened on Thursday. The June 4 polls are the first nationwide elections since President Park Geun-Hye took office 16 months earlier and are widely seen as a referendum on her performance. Prior to the April 16 ferry disaster which left more than 300 dead and missing, the elections were seen as a walkover for her ruling Saenuri Party as many middle-of-road voters threw their weight behind the conservative party on hopes it would improve the sluggish economy. But the disaster has swung the spectrum of opinion to the left and is likely to bring a ballot bonanza to the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), especially in pivotal Seoul and nearby Incheon.
A judge in the state of Florida has given a green light for a human rights abuses trial to move forward in the United States against Bolivian ex-president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. Fort Lauderdale judge James Cohn, in a ruling dated Tuesday, said that plaintiffs may continue to seek compensation from the former president and his then-defense minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain, under a US law that protects torture victims. The plaintiffs are eight Bolivians who live in Florida; Lawyers for the two argued that US courts had no jurisdiction since the events took place in Bolivia.
A renegade general who has launched an assault against Islamists in Benghazi warned Libya had become a "terrorist hub", calling for a civilian presidential high council to form an emergency cabinet and organise legislative elections. Claiming to speak in the name of the army, Khalifa Haftar Wednesday urged the country's highest judicial authority "to form a civilian presidential high council tasked with forming an emergency cabinet and organising legislative elections". Haftar, who was once one of slain dictator Moamer's Kadhafi top generals before falling from grace and going into US exile, was reading a statement broadcast on several Libyan networks. "Libya has become a hub for terrorists who control power," said Haftar, who has been branded an outlaw by the authorities after launching an assault in Benghazi on Friday in which at least 79 people were killed.
Britain and the Netherlands go to the polls on Thursday, starting the ball rolling on elections to the European parliament that are expected to see a swing towards populist right-wing parties. The elections, spread over four days in the EU's 28 member states, are likely to see major gains for parties bent on dismantling the European Union from the inside. When the results are announced from 2100 GMT on Sunday, eurosceptic parties may top the polls in Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The anti-immigration and anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) of Nigel Farage, and Geert Wilders' virulently anti-Islam Party of Freedom (PVV), are both forecast to make big gains.
Chinese manufacturing activity saw a sharp improvement in May, hitting a five-month high, HSBC said on Tuesday, but it warned more government action was needed to kickstart the world's number two economy. "The improvement was broad-based with both new orders and new export orders back in expansionary territory," Qu Hongbin, HSBC's Hong Kong-based economist, said in the statement. In the first three months of 2014 China's economy grew 7.4 percent, weaker than the 7.7 percent in October-December and the worst since a similar 7.4 percent expansion in the third quarter of 2012. Premier Li Keqiang in March announced a growth target of "around 7.5 percent" for this year.
The United States is ready to help organize new elections in Libya in hopes of ushering in a more stable government, US officials said Wednesday amid growing concern at the political turmoil. Libya's electoral commission said Tuesday that polls will take place on June 25 to replace its disputed interim parliament, according to the LANA state news agency. "We're prepared to help support elections preparation from here," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, cautioning that Washington was still waiting for official word from Tripoli. Washington has a range of tools at its disposal, she said, declining to confirm however whether the US would be prepared to help with security arrangements.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for the end of Europe's visa-free Schengen area and the creation of a Franco-German economic bloc at the heart of the eurozone, in an opinion piece in Le Point magazine published Thursday. As France prepares to vote in EU-wide elections on Sunday, Sarkozy said "Schengen I must be immediately suspended and be replaced by a Schengen II of which member countries can only be a part if they previously agree to the same immigration policy". "Europe is not meant to organise social and migratory dumping, almost systematically at the expense of France," he warned. The Schengen area comprises 26 European countries that have abolished passport or any other type of border control in-between their common borders.
By Edith Honan and Gabriel Debenedetti NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The scandal over a made-up study that badly disrupted traffic at the George Washington Bridge may not be New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's biggest problem after all. Less than a year after the charismatic governor was the toast of the Republican Party and a leading contender to run for the White House in 2016, the story was supposed to be about a New Jersey economy that he had managed to turn around and budget problems he had been able to solve. At the same time, New Jersey's economy is less than buoyant - its jobless rate is 6.9 percent, higher than the national rate of 6.3 percent. Christie had built up a picture of a savvy politician and efficient administrator who could reach out to his Democratic opponents and get them to help him solve the state's problems, as he did in getting the support of President Barack Obama when Superstorm Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore in 2012.