Vice President Pence used private email as US governor: report

Emails obtained by that state’s daily Indianapolis Star newspaper showed that Pence used the private account – which the paper said was hacked last summer – to at times discuss “sensitive matters” and “homeland security issues.


The Star, which obtained the emails in a public records request, said that in response to its investigation the vice president’s office confirmed that “Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal account.”

“As Governor, Mr Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention,” his office told the paper.

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“Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state consistent with Indiana law, and are being managed according to Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.”

As US President Donald Trump’s running mate on the 2016 campaign trail, Pence criticised the Republican’s rival Hillary Clinton for using a private email server for official communications – a scandal that haunted her throughout the race.

The reporter who broke the story, Tony Cook, told CNN that Pence’s spokesman had “downplayed any comparisons to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and email account.”

Indiana law does not bar public officials from using personal email, but generally does require that messages connected to official business be kept for public information purposes.

Pence’s office told the paper that his campaign had taken steps to allow outside counsel to transfer personal emails dealing with public business to the state.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Clinton was dogged throughout her White House campaign by her use of a private email server while secretary of state. 

She has said FBI director James Comey played a part in her campaign loss, claiming that the agency’s re-opening of a probe into her email use broke the momentum towards victory. 

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Artificial embryo offers pregnancy hope

Scientists have created an artificial mouse embryo from stem cells for the first time.


The breakthrough, which could shed light on why two-thirds of human pregnancies fail in the early stages of embryo development, was made by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Using two types of stem cells – embryonic (ESCs) and trophoblast (TSCs) – with a 3D scaffold, the scientists grew a structure capable of assembling itself.

The artificial structure’s development and architecture closely resembled that of a natural embryo.

When a mammalian egg is fertilised by a sperm, it divides to create a ball of stem cells. The ESCs cluster together at one end of the embryo, while the TSCs form a placenta.

A third type of stem cell – primitive endoderm – form a yolk sac which provides essential nutrients for the foetus’s organs to develop properly.

Early embryo development requires the different cells to co-ordinate closely with each other, and previous attempts to create an artificial structure using only ESCs have been unsuccessful.

But the research, published in the journal Science on Thursday, found that the two types of cell communicate about where in the embryo to place themselves.

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, who led the research, said: “We knew that interactions between the different types of stem cell are important for development, but the striking thing that our new work illustrates is that this is a real partnership – these cells truly guide each other.

“Without this partnership, the correct development of shape and form and the timely activity of key biological mechanisms doesn’t take place properly.”

The artificial embryo, while akin to a natural one, is unlikely to grow to a healthy foetus because it would need the third stem cell to create the yolk sac.

However, the study could help scientists understand the developmental events that occur before a human embryo reaches 14 days.

“We are very optimistic that this will allow us to study key events of this critical stage of human development without actually having to work on embryos,” Prof Zernicka-Goetz said.

“Knowing how development normally occurs will allow us to understand why it so often goes wrong.”

Sweden brings back conscription amid Russia fears

“We are in a context where Russia has annexed Crimea,” Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told AFP, adding: “They are doing more exercises in our immediate vicinity.


Sweden has had a professional army, staffed by volunteers, since 2010.

“We saw that our units could not be filled on a voluntary basis. A decision had to be taken to complement the (volunteer) system which is why we are reactivating conscription,” Hultqvist said.

A non-NATO member, Sweden has not seen armed conflict on its territory in two centuries. It put conscription on hold in 2010 after it was deemed an unsatisfactory way of meeting the needs of a modern army.

In the past two decades the military’s budget has been slashed as its mission was revamped to focus more on peacekeeping operations abroad and less on the country’s defence.

But in recent years, concerns have risen about Russia’s intentions in the region — with alarms bells ringing after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, experts noted.

“The new security situation is also a reality, partly in the form of Russian power politics which has long been underestimated and downplayed,” Wilhelm Agrell, a security expert at Lund University, told AFP.

Since the winter of 2014, “we’ve seen Russia as expansive and prepared to use violence to benefit its own interests,” Agrell said.

But, “today Sweden has neither the possibility nor the political will to stay away from a conflict” in the Baltic Sea region, he added.

In June 2015, US think tank Cepa published a report claiming Russia had held exercises with 33,000 troops aimed at practising an invasion of Sweden’s Baltic Sea island of Gotland, among other sites.

Just three months earlier, the Swedish government had decided to remilitarise Gotland, where the last barracks had been decommissioned in 2005.

Around 150 men have been stationed there since September last year.

Russian fears also came to the fore in October 2014, when Sweden launched a massive but unsuccessful hunt for a foreign submarine — suspected to be Russian — in the Stockholm archipelago over an eight-day period.


Sweden first introduced compulsory military service in 1901 but halted it in 2010 and replaced it with a volunteer army.

But a military career had little appeal to generations of Swedes who had never set foot inside barracks.

Thursday’s decision by the minority Social Democratic-led government means all Swedes — male and female — born in 1999 or later will be eligible for conscription as of July 1, 2017.

Mandatory military service, which will last for 11 months, will begin January 1, 2018.

As of July 1, all Swedes born after 1999 will be contacted and asked to answer a questionnaire.  Based on their answers, 13,000 people will be mobilised.

Of those, only 4,000 will be called up each year after January 1, 2018.

For the first time, conscription will apply to women.

“It’s very important to emphasise that military service is for girls and guys,” Hultqvist said.

“It is important for the military to have a gender equal profile,” he added.

The reactivation of conscription is supported by both the government and right-wing opposition.

In 2015, they had already agreed to increase military spending, granting the defence an additional 1.1 billion euros ($1.18 billion) over the period 2016-2020.

On defence issues, Sweden has a close dialogue with neighbouring Finland, which in turn shares a 1,340-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia.

Sweden and Finland — the Nordic and Baltic region’s only non-aligned countries — have recently stepped up their military cooperation with the US.

That followed an increase in Russian military activity in the region, including several airspace violations and war planes allegedly flying without their identifying transponders.

Russia has repeatedly warned Sweden and Finland against joining NATO, an issue regularly debated in both countries.

History of slavery in America unleashes Trump frustrations

Maryland authorities have taken down a statue of a 19th century chief justice who wrote an infamous pro-slavery decision, the latest example of action across the United States over memorials that have triggered racially charged protests.


Meanwhile, the mother of a woman killed when a man crashed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in the Virginia city of Charlottesville last week said that after hearing Donald Trump’s latest comments, she did not want to talk to the president.

In what has become the biggest domestic crisis of his presidency, Trump has been strongly criticised, including by many fellow Republicans, for blaming the Charlottesville violence not only on the rally organisers, but also the anti-racism activists who opposed them.

Crews in Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis, removed the 145-year-old bronze statue of Roger Taney from its base outside State House overnight using a crane, local media showed.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, had called on Wednesday for the monument to be taken down immediately. Taney’s 1857 ruling, known as the Dred Scott decision, reaffirmed slavery and said black people could not be US citizens.

0:00 Mounting criticism of US President as the political fallout continues Share Mounting criticism of US President as the political fallout continues

Opponents of monuments to the Confederate states, which fought in the US Civil War for the preservation of slavery, view them as a festering symbol of racism.

Supporters say they honour American history, and some of the monuments have become rallying points for white nationalists.

In North Carolina, Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said his officers were preparing for a possible march by white nationalists in front of a Durham city courthouse on Friday, the News & Observer newspaper reported. Protesters tore down a Confederate statue in the city earlier this week.

Efforts to remove many such statues around the country have been stepped up since the Charlottesville rally, called by white nationalists to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Trump on Thursday decried the removal of Confederate monuments, drawing stinging rebukes from fellow Republicans in a controversy that has inflamed racial tensions nationwide.


Trump’s lawyer expects Russia probe to end shortly

The White House lawyer dealing with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling believes the focus of the probe is “narrow” and aspects related to President Donald Trump should be completed before the end of the year.


The lawyer, Ty Cobb, who joined the White House staff on July 31, declined to provide specifics backing his outlook, which contradicts media reports that the scope of Mueller’s probe is expanding and the views of several outside experts that the investigation is likely to continue well into 2018.

“I’d like to see the president out from under this by Thanksgiving, but certainly by year end,” Cobb said, adding that he would be “embarrassed” otherwise.

Mueller is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, among other matters. Moscow has denied interfering in the election and the president has denied collusion took place.

Cobb said he meets with or talks to Trump almost daily and interacts with Mueller’s team.

As a White House lawyer, Cobb is in a different position than the president’s outside counsel John Dowd and Jay Sekulow. Cobb would not be able to assert attorney-client privilege to protect his conversations with Trump from a grand jury subpoena.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment on any timeline for the probe or which matters would fall under the special counsel’s aegis.

Trump has said he believes investigations of his and his family’s finances would be beyond the scope of Mueller’s probe. Mueller is reportedly already looking at Trump’s business dealings going back a decade.

Cobb said he believed Mueller’s 16-lawyer team was “appropriately focused” and understood “the urgency to the country and to the presidency” of finishing the probe as quickly as possible.

Several legal experts said Cobb’s timeline was unrealistic, noting similar probes have dragged on for years.


Roman Polanski victim’s bid to end case rejected

A Los Angeles judge has rejected a request by the woman who was raped by director Roman Polanski 40 years ago to have the criminal case against him dismissed.


Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon ruled that Polanski remained a fugitive from justice and that the court could not dismiss a case “merely because it would be in the victim’s best interest.”

The ruling follows the first appearance in June in the case by Samantha Geimer, who was 13 years old when Polanski sexually assaulted her in Los Angeles in 1977.

The director, who admitted raping Geimer, spent 42 days in pre-trial custody. He then fled the United States, fearing a plea bargain with prosecutors would be overruled and that he would get a lengthy prison term.

The Chinatown director, who turned 84 on Friday, has never returned and numerous attempts by his lawyers to strike a deal without him spending more time in prison have failed.

“The defendant in this matter stands as a fugitive and refuses to comply with court orders,” Gordon wrote.

Geimer went to Los Angeles Superior Court in June pleading for his case to be resolved, saying she had forgiven Polanski years ago and wanted the case put to rest “as an act of mercy to myself and my family.”

Geimer, who has three sons and now lives in Hawaii, said in June that Polanski had apologised to her years ago, but that she continued to remain a victim because of media attention each time there was a new development in the case.

Gordon on Friday also rejected a request by Polanski’s attorney, Harland Braun, to unseal testimony about the 1977 plea deal. Braun had hoped to use the testimony to persuade European authorities to rescind the international arrest warrant against Polanski.

Two recent bids by the United States to extradite Polanski, from Switzerland and Poland, have failed.

Braun says Polanski wants to be able to travel freely and to visit the grave in the United States of his wife, Sharon Tate, who was murdered in Los Angeles by followers of Charles Manson in 1969.

Polanski’s career has flourished despite the notoriety of the rape case. In 2003, he won an Oscar for directing the Holocaust film The Pianist but did not travel to the United States to collect it.

Braun on Friday expressed frustration at the failure to resolve matters.

“This case is 40 years old, with an 84 year-old defendant and a 50 year-old victim requesting that the matter be resolved… It appears that a resolution of this case should be simple,” he said.


Barcelona van attacker may still be alive

The driver of the van that ploughed into crowds in Barcelona, killing 13 people, may still be alive and at large, Spanish police said, denying earlier media reports that he had been shot dead in a Catalan seaside resort.


Josep Lluis Trapero, police chief in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, said he could not confirm the driver was one of five men killed.

“It is still a possibility but, unlike four hours ago, it is losing weight,” he told regional TV.

The driver abandoned the van and fled on Thursday after speeding along a section of Las Ramblas, the most famous boulevard in Barcelona, leaving a trail of dead and injured among the crowds of tourists and local residents thronging the street.

It was the latest of a string of attacks across Europe in the past 13 months in which militants have used vehicles as weapons – a crude but deadly tactic that is near-impossible to prevent and has now killed nearly 130 people in France, Germany, Britain, Sweden and Spain.

Suspected jihadists have been behind the previous attacks. Islamic State said the perpetrators of the latest one had been responding to its call to target countries involved in a U.S.-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.

Hours after the van rampage, police shot dead five people in the Catalan resort of Cambrils, 120 km down the coast from Barcelona, after they drove their car at pedestrians and police officers.

The five assailants had an axe and knives in their car and wore fake explosive belts, police said. A single police officer shot four of the men, Trapero said.

A Spanish woman was killed in the Cambrils incident, while several other civilians and a police officer were injured.

Trapero had earlier said the investigation was focusing on a house in Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, which was razed by an explosion shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

Police believe the house was being used to plan one or several large-scale attacks in Barcelona, possibly using a large number of butane gas canisters stored there.

However, the apparently accidental explosion at the house forced the conspirators to scale down their plans and to hurriedly carry out more “rudimentary” attacks, Trapero said.

More extremely premmie babies surviving

Parents of an extremely premature baby have every reason to be optimistic about their child’s future, with more than ever surviving without severe disability.


However for unknown reasons they face greater academic challenges later in life, leading to calls for greater surveillance and early intervention.

Associate Professor Jeanie Cheong is a neonatal pediatrician at the Royal Women’s Hospital and says it’s important that clinicians closely monitor the long-term outcomes of premature babies beyond the age of two.

“We have every reason to be optimistic – back in the 70’s less than 10 per cent of these children survived and now they are surviving in very reasonable numbers,” Professor Cheong said.

“There is still a higher proportion of children born extremely pre-term who are at risks of challenges in terms of their abilities, so as clinicians and for families it’s important that the children have close surveillance and follow-up so that any potential disabilities are picked up early and they can be referred to early intervention to optimise their outcomes.”

A study published in The BMJ this week showed premature babies born in France in 2001 were more likely to survive and less likely to have severe disabilities by age two compared with those born in 1997.

Premature birth, occurring before 37 weeks, is a risk factor for development of many medical conditions, in particular Cerebral Palsy.

Half of the children born at 24-26 weeks gestation and a third of those born at 32-34 weeks gestation were considered a risk of developmental delay.

While an observational study, there were noticeable delays in language development and social-emotional skills in many of the prematurely born children.

Associate Professor Cheong, who is also a senior research fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and University of Melbourne, says what the French study has found is reflected in the Australian data.

Two previously published papers looked at two year outcomes for infants born in 1991, 1997 and 2005 in Victoria and found similar results, she says.

“We found that survival rates have increased, cerebral palsy rates have stayed roughly the same, but their academic achievement has not improved and may even be a little bit worse,” she said.

At eight years of age, children born in the late 90’s were not doing as well academically compared to those born in 1991, the Australian research found.

“Why that’s the case is unclear,” said Prof Cheong.

For this reason, Professor Cheong believes assessing children at two years of age is not enough.

“It’s really important to follow children up until their school age and older because early assessments are not good indicators of what happens in the longer term.”

Despite the concerns around academic achievement there is no reason for parents to “panic”, assures Professor Cheong.

“So many are still free of severe disability. Ten per cent might have cerebral palsy, 90 per cent do not,” she said.

“Close surviellance, early detection and intervention, that’s the message rather than absolute panic.”

Checkup Medical Column for March 3

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.



For Australians awaiting an organ transplant, a promising milestone has been achieved.

As of January this year, a 12-month rate of 510 donors has provided 1451 transplant recipients with a second chance at life.

The 12-month rate in 2015 was 367.

ShareLife Australia says donation and transplantation rates have steadily increased since the federal government announced in 2015 a national inquiry into the management of the 2008 National Reform Plan.

Professor Allan Glanville, Director Thoracic Medicine and Medical Director Lung transplantation at Sydney’s St Vincent Hospital, says this “significant” increase in donation rates is evidence of what can be achieved when key stakeholders work together.

“The combined efforts by the Australian Government, including the OTA (Organ Tissue Authority) and state-based organ donation organisations, informed hospital administrators and dedicated doctors and nurses, highlights the importance of well-managed in-hospital organ donation programs,” said Prof Glanville.


Dermatitis and acne cause the greatest disease burden of all forms of skin disease globally, according to international research including Australians.

The study published in journal JAMA Dermatology found that skin diseases are the fourth largest cause of disability worldwide.

Researchers analysed more than 4000 sources of data on 15 skin conditions in 188 countries from 1980 through to 2013 to determine the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) – years lived with a disability and years of life lost – for each of the conditions.

Dermatitis topped the list with 9.3 million disability-adjusted life years globally, while acne causes 7.2 million DALYs.


Greater awareness is needed about how the whole family can be impacted by a baby’s lack of sleep, say experts.

The Pediatric Sleep Council (PSC), a team of international pediatric sleep experts, celebrated the first annual Baby Sleep Day on March 1 to draw attention and recognition to the importance of baby sleep.

Sleep is not only vital for the baby’s development but is also important for the health of the whole family, says Professor Harriet Hiscock, Research Fellow at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI) and paediatrician at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

Prof Hiscock says a baby’s lack of sleep also impacts on the family dynamic.

“It affects their relationship with their child, but also the relationship with their partner. The child’s sleep problem is often a source of tension because everyone is exhausted and cranky,” said Prof Hiscock.

“It’s a health issue for parents.”

US doctor Erin Leichman, Executive Director of the PSC, says raising awareness is an important step in giving families the answers, support, and information they seek.


Australian researchers have received a funding boost to develop a world-first radiotherapy system that will ensure a “safer” delivery of the life-saving treatment to hard-to-treat cancers.

Radiation therapy is used to treat 40 per cent of cancer patients in Australia.

One of the difficulties with current treatment techniques, which map out the cancer ahead of the radiotherapy, is that hard to visualise tumours move during treatment, for example when the patient breathes.

Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI)-guided radiotherapy currently allows the cancer and surrounding organs to be viewed in real time as it is being treated. But at present it is impossible to check the radiation dose in the same way.

Professor Peter Metcalfe from the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics centre at the University of Wollongong aims to solve this problem by perfecting a novel radiation dosage measurement system that operates with MRI-linear accelerators.

On Wednesday his project was awarded a nearly $500,000 Cancer Council NSW project grant.

Prof Metcalfe says the three-year study will result in safer, more accurate and more effective treatment for patients.

“It’s mainly for the cancers that are difficult to visualise and treat – lung, breast, oesophagus, pancreas, kidney, rectal tissue, liver, cervix, prostate and lymph nodes – all the tricky ones,” Professor Metcalfe said.

“These cancers are difficult to target using current technology because they are near healthy organs that need to be avoided. The main thing with radiotherapy is avoiding other surrounding organs. So if you can reduce the size of the radiation field and hit the target more exactly you can spare the healthy organs.”

Motor racing-Mercedes wrap up first test with Hamilton absent

If there were some cynics in the press room for the triple champion’s no-show, it was only because he had joked the previous evening that he might “fake a pulled muscle” to get out of the wet tyre test on an artificially-soaked track.


Trucks had sprayed water around the Circuit de Catalunya since the early hours.

“Electrical fault kept us in the garage this morning, so I’ve decided with the team not to drive today as I wouldn’t have learned much,” the Briton said on Twitter.

“Shame not to drive but it’s been a great few days. The guys have done an awesome job. Can’t wait to be back in the car next week,” he added.

Hamilton had made clear on Wednesday night that he was not a big fan of the wet weather tyres.

“I hear it’s wet tomorrow, so not particularly looking forward to that,” he had told reporters. “I drove some demonstration wet tyres at Silverstone (last week) and they didn’t feel great. And I’m out first, unfortunately.

“I might fake a pulled muscle in the morning and let Valtteri do it.”

Mercedes had shown impressive reliability up to Thursday, completing far more laps than any other team with barely a hitch.

The two drivers have been sharing the load, with one driving in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

Bottas, who has moved from Williams to replace retired world champion Nico Rosberg, would have been due to start in the afternoon but completed nine laps before the lunch break.

He ended up with 68 to his credit, more than a race distance.

The Finn’s fastest lap on Wednesday would have secured pole for any race at the Spanish circuit since it was reconfigured in 2007, and Mercedes have again looked the team to beat with Ferrari closest.

Ferrari’s 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen ended Thursday with the fastest time and 92 laps covered. France’s Romain Grosjean in the Haas did most laps of all, with 118.

Williams did not take part in the final day after Canadian rookie Lance Stroll’s crash on Wednesday that damaged the car. Testing resumes next Tuesday at the Spanish circuit.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Investigators search French presidential candidate Fillon’s house

Investigators have searched the house of French presidential candidate Francois Fillon as part of an investigation into payments made to his wife, Le Parisien newspaper reported, citing unidentified sources.


The financial prosecutor’s office declined comment.

The news on Thursday came as further cracks appeared in Fillon’s campaign, a day after news that he faces a formal investigation for allegations he misused public funds.

A flash opinion poll by Harris Interactive on Thursday showed that only 25 per cent of people now want him to continue as a candidate, down from 35 per cent a month ago, while within his party there were more resignations after his decision on Wednesday to stay in the race.

WATCH: Fillon refuses to quit France presidential race

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While Fillon campaigned in southern France on Thursday ahead of a rally in the city of Nimes, poll favourite Emmanuel Macron announced his full centrist manifesto and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen was due to give a presentation on the role of the French state in the economy.

With less than two months to go to the April 23 first round vote, polls point to a second-round showdown on May 7 between Macron and Le Pen that Macron would win.

One of the first opinion polls partly taken after Fillon’s legal woes deepened on Wednesday showed his support dipping below 20 per cent for the first time in a week.

Fillon already suffered a blow on Wednesday when adviser Bruno Le Maire quit his campaign in protest against his decision to fight on.

On Thursday, deputy campaign director Sebastien Lecornu and adviser Vincent Le Roux followed Le Maire’s lead, along with a number of more junior campaign staff.

Sources said there was a strong push by some in the party to have former prime minister Alain Juppe run, but the plan was vetoed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president.


Labor wary of disclosing vets’ information

Federal Labor is having a rethink about legislation that would allow the government to release the personal information of veterans so that it can correct public statements.


The move comes a day after the opposition referred Human Services Minister Alan Tudge to federal police to determine whether providing a journalist with a welfare recipient’s personal information was legal.

“What’s come to light over recent days seems to be that the government can’t be trusted with personal information,” opposition veterans affairs spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth told ABC radio on Friday.

The bill, which cleared parliament’s lower house this week with the support of Labor, gives the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs the power to disclose otherwise protected information about an individual provided a public interest certificate is obtained.

While the individual can object to release of any information, the department could still do so without their approval.

Ms Rishworth said Labor had supported the bill on the provision that strict safeguards were in place to protect public data.

“I think I have to go back to the minister and have a conversation with him because there is now a concern … (it) will wilfully, in their political interest, release individuals’ information,” she said.

Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan insists the bill has undergone a privacy impact assessment and extensive consultation.

Centrelink bosses, appearing before a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday, were grilled about sharing private client information with the media.

Human Services head Kathryn Campbell said the agency could release information to “correct the record” in a bid to maintain integrity and confidence in the system, and had done so for many years.

Centrelink bosses agreed an individual’s personal information handed to a journalist last week was protected information, saying it was run by the minister’s office first and provided under lawful exemptions.

The same exemption had been used many times.

Releasing the information was “essential” for retaining public confidence in the welfare system.

“The only information which we are able to release is information which is specifically to correct the record,” Human Services staffer Jonathon Hutson told senators.

“Information concerning an individual which has not been made otherwise public is not released and has not been released in this circumstance.”

Ms Campbell said the person involved made a number of unfounded claims which could have a knock-on effect.

“It was in the opinion of officers that this was likely to concern other individuals, that they may see this and think that they too had erred and not met their commitments.”

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said she was concerned the section of the veterans affairs bill could impact on the Senate inquiry hearings into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel.

Many people had already given evidence privately and publicly as part of the inquiry, and the threat of the department revealing information could have a “chilling effect” on more people coming forward.

“It sent shivers up my spine that the government is now trying to do the same thing that it is doing to people on income support to veterans,” she told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

“I would be strongly advocating for us to be not supporting those amendments.”

UK inquiry told of ‘Creeping Jesus’ abuse

A Presbyterian supervisor at a Victorian farm school was known as “Creeping Jesus” because of the way he crept up on boys at night to sexually abuse them in the 1950s, a British inquiry has heard.


A former child migrant gave evidence to the child sex abuse inquiry sitting in London on Thursday, detailing the abuse he suffered after being shipped from the UK where he had been in foster care.

Michael Hawes, now aged 70 and living in Queensland, arrived in Australia in 1954 at the age of seven and was sent to the Presbyterian church’s farm school at Dhurringile in Victoria.

He said he was constantly bullied by the older boys, was once tied up in barbed wire and pelted with rocks and one boy nearly succeeded in cutting off his finger with a pocket knife.

Holding back tears, Mr Hawes said he was abused by two staff members at the school including one the boys dubbed “Creeping Jesus”.

“You wouldn’t hear him come, he’d go up the stairs and he’d pick a boy up and take him downstairs to a locked room,” he said.

Mr Hawes said he was forced to masturbate him but he refused to perform oral sex, telling the man he would bite.

He said such abuse went on at least once a week for up to four years, with boys thrashed if they didn’t cooperate.

Mr Hawes said another man at the school would grope him down his shorts and strip off in front of boys to show his erection.

At age 12 he was reunited with his parents when they moved to Australia but he said they were like strangers to him by then and he later left home to drift from job to job.

He said the abuse had left him lacking self esteem and he still found it hard to trust people.

The Australian government issued an apology in 2009 for the cruelty shown to child migrants and the UK government apologised in 2010 for its part in the child migration program.

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25).