"A cruel insult". Former PM Tony Abbott criticised for his prison visit to George Pell, & more in News in 5.

With AAP.

1. “A cruel insult”. Former PM Tony Abbott criticised for his prison visit to George Pell.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has visited convicted pedophile George Pell in prison, where he is being held on child sex convictions.

Mr Abbott told Seven News he was “simply visiting a friend” after he was spotted leaving the Melbourne Assessment Prison on Monday.

Pell – who in December last year was jailed for six years for sexually assaulting two choirboys at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral while he was Archbishop of Melbourne – is being held at the prison.

Former Victorian senator Derryn Hinch says the visit is a “cruel insult” to those sexually assaulted by Pell.

“For Tony Abbott, a former prime minister, to visit Pell, a convicted pedophile, is a disgrace and a cruel insult to his victims,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr Abbott phoned Pell after his guilty verdict was handed down and is one of the disgraced cardinal’s many high-profile supporters.

Former prime minister John Howard wrote a character reference for Pell after he was convicted for child sex abuse.

When asked by 2GB journalist Ben Fordham in February if he would reconsider his support of Pell following his conviction, Abbott said he would wait to see what the appeal court finds.

“Well he’s been found guilty by a court of a horrible crime, an absolutely horrible crime,” he said.

“Let’s see what the appeal court finds. It’s a shocking and devastating result.”


Australia’s highest court has agreed to refer Pell’s case to the full bench of the High Court to hear appeal arguments.

That hearing won’t be held until at least March next year.

2. Vigil held for victims of London terror attack.

The girlfriend of London Bridge terror victim Jack Merritt broke down in tears as she attended a vigil in his memory in Cambridge.

Leanne O’Brien wept and clutched a cuddly toy as she was supported by family and friends at the event, which also honoured fellow Cambridge graduate Saskia Jones.

Merritt, 25, and Jones, 23, were both stabbed by 28-year-old convicted terrorist Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event they were supporting in London on Friday.

The Cambridge vigil took place as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn stood side-by-side to pay their respects at a separate event at Guildhall Yard in London, observing a minute’s silence alongside members of the public.

The pair were joined by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who called for people to come together following the killings and work for a future “not defined by hatred but defined by hope, unity and love”.

“We come together this morning as Londoners to remember, to honour and to mourn the innocent lives lost as a result of this horrific terrorist attack on Friday.”

Khan added: “The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another but by focusing on the values that bind us.”

The mayor thanked the public and the emergency services who “ran towards danger, risking their lives to help others”.

Usman Khan was wearing an electronic monitoring tag when he launched the attack, which injured three others, after he was invited to the prisoner rehabilitation conference on Friday.

The event was organised by Learning Together, a program associated with Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology.

The attack has prompted the Ministry of Justice to review the licence conditions of every convicted terrorist released from prison, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was “probably about 74” people.

Johnson has vowed to take steps to ensure people are not released early when they commit serious offences.

But the family of Merritt asked that his death not be used to justify introducing “even more draconian sentences” on offenders in a heartfelt tribute released on Sunday.


They said: “Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog.

“We know Jack would not want this terrible, isolated incident to be used as a pretext by the government for introducing even more draconian sentences on prisoners, or for detaining people in prison for longer than necessary.”

In a tweet on Sunday, Merritt’s father David said: “Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos – to promote your vile propaganda.

“Jack stood against everything you stand for – hatred, division, ignorance.”

Jones, a volunteer with Learning Together, was described as having a “great passion” for providing support to victims of crime by her family.

In a statement, they said: “Saskia had a great passion for providing invaluable support to victims of criminal injustice, which led her to the point of recently applying for the police graduate recruitment program, wishing to specialise in victim support.”

Khan was convicted of terror offences in February 2012 and released from prison on licence in December 2018, halfway through his 16-year prison sentence.

On Friday he launched his attack armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest.

He was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders from the conference, before he was shot dead by police.

3. Queensland domestic violence survivor calls out police inaction.

A domestic violence survivor says the Queensland police commissioner should have sacked a senior constable for leaking her address to her allegedly violent former partner.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, says she had hoped the newly appointed Commissioner Katarina Carroll would take a stand against violence against women.

“It’s disgraceful (she) is not taking a stand against domestic violence and (she is) certainly not taking a stand to show other QPS members that this is not permitted,” she told reporters on Monday.

The woman made her comments outside the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, where the Queensland Police Service asked for more time to appeal an earlier finding it was liable for the privacy breach because it miscalculated the date it was due.


The hearing to consider the application for a time extension was brought forward at short notice on Friday to accommodate QPS lawyer Scott McLeod QC, which the woman said left her feeling bullied because she doubted she would be shown the same leniency.

“I think that was a deliberate miscalculation so they could further delay the matter and add to the level of abuse that I’ve been suffering through this whole ordeal,” she said.

“It’s clearly not a fair system … there’s a complete power imbalance and having to go up against a QC and being self-represented is really difficult.”

The woman said she wanted the matter to be over so she could move on and couldn’t understand why the police were fighting the finding against them “when they clearly did the wrong”.

“I had to relocate on two separate occasions because of the breach … that has led to extensive costs moving a family of five,” she said.

“No normal person should be living life as I do.”

The woman also blasted the move of now-suspended senior constable Neil Punchard to appeal the severity of his wholly suspended two-month jail sentence after he was convicted of nine counts of computer hacking.

“The punishment should have been more severe … he really should be behind bars,” she said.

QPS said has sought further legal advice on the status of Punchard and does not dispute that the officer engaged in the conduct outlined in QCAT.

“The commissioner expects the highest standards of its members particularly when it relates to the inappropriate or unlawful access or release of information,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.


4. Greens MP says Morrison government’s current climate targets will lead to “catastrophic consequences”.

Australia’s emissions reduction target will put the world on track to warm by three degrees Celsius, the Greens say.

The minor party’s lone MP Adam Bandt has introduced a bill to parliament to make the Climate Change Authority model what such a world would be like.

“The Australian people need to know the Morrison government’s current climate targets will take us into a 3C world, with catastrophic consequences for Australia,” he said on Monday.

“We’re already seeing the severe impacts of a 1C world, with the climate crises driving the fire emergency and record drought.”

The possible temperature rise is based off analysis from Climate Analytics and the New Climate Institute’s climate action tracker.

It looks at action taken by governments across the globe, tying in emissions reduction projections, targets and science linked to different temperatures.

Scientists making policy recommendations to leaders through the United Nations say global temperatures have already increased by about 1C, and are now putting their efforts towards halting warming at 1.5C.

Mr Bandt noted Scott Morrison has changed his tune towards the debate, with the prime minister now saying climate change is real and the government is doing its bit.

“If that’s right – and it’s not – he should allow the Climate Change Authority to review the government’s targets and tell Australia what it means to be on track for 3C.”


The Morrison government is under pressure to do more to tackle climate change, with the debate now coming from wider sections of the community including investors, farmers and older Australians.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has joined those ranks, taking a swipe at the government for its lack of climate policy.

Mr Turnbull says Liberal Party members must be “loud Australians” on climate change, a reference to the “quiet Australians” Mr Morrison credits for his shock election win this year.

Asked about the comments during Question Time on Monday, Mr Morrison said the government was implementing emissions reduction policies that began under his predecessor.

Meanwhile, the government has handed its report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef to the United Nations for its World Heritage listing assessment.

The report acknowledges climate change as the major threat to the reef, but says the government is on track to tackle it.

The UN is also poised to host a major climate conference in Spain, where countries are being urged to increase their emissions targets.

To coincide with the conference the Investor Group on Climate Change has called on the government to develop a better strategy to help investors avoid the impacts of climate change.

The Carbon Market Institute has also released its updated strategy towards net zero emissions by 2050, saying a low-carbon future won’t cut it.

5. QLD firefighters expected to face worsening conditions.

Residents in Woodgate, south of Bundaberg in Queensland, have been told to leave as a nearby bushfire worsens.

A fast-moving grass fire near Jarretts Road is travelling northwest, and is expected to impact the area between Heidkes Road to the end of Jarretts Road, bordered by the Gregory River.

Firefighters say the blaze could have a significant impact on the community.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services have also issued a prepare to leave warning for residents living near the Ravensbourne bushfire north of Toowoomba.

“If you do not have a plan, or intend to leave, you should be ready to leave the area because the situation could get worse quickly,” QFES said in an alert on Monday night.

“Fire crews are working to contain the fire but firefighters may not be able to protect every property. You should not expect a firefighter at your door.”


The warnings come as dry and windy conditions have seen the fire danger rating classed as severe in parts of southern Queensland, as more than 50 fires burn across the state.

Brisbane meteorologist David Crock said the weather on Monday is a repeat of the conditions experienced four or five times since the start of the fire season in September.

“That combination of hot, dry and windy weather is the worst fire weather that we see, so the fire agencies and firefighters are certainly up against it today,” Mr Crock said.

The severe fire danger warning is in place on Monday for the South East Coast, Wide Bay and Burnett region, Darling Downs and Granite Belt, Capricornia and Central Highlands and Coalfields.

High temperatures are expected in far north Queensland early this week before pushing south, bringing maximums of around 40C in areas like the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim by the end of the week.

The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast could experience temperatures of 35C, while in Brisbane it could reach 37C on Friday.

Mr Crock said fire dangers were expected to remain very high, possibly reaching severe again in some parts of southern Queensland for the rest of the week.

There is little sign of rain with the climate outlook suggesting drier than average conditions in December and probably into January as well, Mr Crock said.

Feature Image: AAP.