Broadspectrum shares up as it backs bid

Broadspectrum shares have surged more than 30 per cent after the detention centre operator recommended the $769 million takeover bid it had previously rejected.


The Broadspectrum board had urged shareholders to reject a bid by Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial, but had an abrupt change of heart following the Papua New Guinea government’s announcement that it will shut the Manus Island unit run by the Australian firm.

Broadspectrum shares closed 36.0 cents, or 32.14 per cent, higher to $1.48 on Friday, following a trading halt imposed on Thursday.

That’s two cents short of Ferrovial’s offer of $1.50 per security.

Ferrovial issued a statement on Friday morning welcoming Broadspectrum’s recommendation and encouraging shareholders to accept before the offer closes at 1900 AEST on Monday.

Ferrovial said it cannot extend or change its offer.

Broadspectrum’s contract to operate the Australian government’s Manus Island and Nauru offshore detention centres was extended by 12 months in February, and it had been among the bidders for a new five-year deal.

But it said Papua New Guinea’s decision to close the centre following a Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional had “increased the level of near-term uncertainty” to its contract and future earnings.

“It is not possible to definitively determine the nature, scope and timing of any changes or any resulting impact to Broadspectrum, including whether the changes will be positive, negative or neutral from the company’s perspective,” Broadspectrum said in a statement.

The company said it was unlikely that it would have certainty about the potential impact before the closing date for the takeover.

The company recently said it is in a strong financial position, expecting underlying earnings in the range of $280 million and $300 million in the 2015/16 financial year.

Ferrovial has a 8.5 per cent interest in Broadspectrum.

Kidman sale not in national interest

Treasurer Scott Morrison has told the Chinese company wanting to buy Australia’s largest private landholder that its planned purchase is contrary to the national interest.


But he has left the door open to approving the sale of S Kidman and Co after consideration of an external and independent review of the sale process.

While the review found the sale process followed a satisfactory commercial practice that offered opportunity to Australian parties to make an offer, it also found there was significant domestic interest in Kidman.

“I have concerns that the form in which the Kidman portfolio has been offered as a single aggregated asset, has rendered it difficult for Australian bidders to be able to make a competitive bid,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Friday.”

“The size of the asset makes it difficult for any single Australian group to acquire the entire operation.”

Mr Morrison has given Dakang Australia Holdings Pty Ltd until next Tuesday to respond to his concerns.

The Kidman portfolio is the largest private land holding in Australia covering about 1.3 per cent of the nation’s total land area, and 2.5 per cent of its agricultural land.

Even after the excision of Anna Creek and The Peake properties, Kidman would still be Australia’s largest private land owner and hold over one per cent total land area, and two per cent of agricultural land.

“My preliminary view of the proposal that has been put to me is contrary to the national interest,” Mr Morrison said of the 80 per cent interest in Kidman Dakang wants to acquire.

Nor had a revised sale proposal satisfied his concerns.

The size and significance of the portfolio, combined with the impact the decision may have on broader Australian support for foreign investment in agriculture, must also to be taken into account in this case, the treasurer said.

“Australia welcomes foreign investment, however we must be confident that this investment is not contrary to the national interest.”

Budget tax cuts key for corporate Aust

Corporate Australia wants the government to follow its lead on cutting spending, and also hand out tax cuts to boost its competitiveness.


Mining companies in particular, facing a prolonged slump in commodities prices, want the government to deliver a long-sought reduction in company taxes during next week’s federal budget.

Resources companies, Australia’s largest export earners, have been forced to slash expenditure and take large asset writedowns over the last 18 months.

“While the minerals industry has taken steps to increase productivity and reduce costs, concerted government action is required to create a more growth-oriented and competitive policy environment,” the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has told Canberra.

The lobby group wants the budget to outline a cut in corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent.

The sector’s other major lobby group, the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC), shares that view. It also wants removal of state taxes such as stamp duty and payroll tax, but has asked the federal government to retain tax incentives that support miners.

Analysts believe prospects for the tax cuts appear to be distant.

“Politically, its difficult for the government to justify cutting taxes for big corporations,” AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said.

“A corporate tax cut could have been funded if we were looking at increasing or broadening in GST. But without that, it looks fairly difficult.”

Advisory firm Deloitte Access Economics estimates overall company tax collections for 2015/16 will likely fall $4.7 billion short of the official Treasury estimates, mainly because major miners – who account for a sixth of company tax revenue, have taken huge profit hits.

“Although company tax dominates total writedowns for profit taxes, special mention also needs to go to resource rent taxes, which continue to head the way of the dodo,” Deloitte said in a report ahead of the federal budget.

A recent rebound in prices of iron ore could provide some respite, but the gains are likely to be offset by a stronger currency.

Deloitte estimates that if current iron ore prices were to last, it would add around $15 billion to tax collections over a four-year period. That would also help trim the company tax shortfall to $2.3 billion in 2016-17.

But iron ore is largely expected to resume its downward trend as China’s economy slows.

Meanwhile, the hit to corporate profits in Australia has been larger than Treasury envisaged, and the higher Australian dollar is undoing the boost from higher commodity prices, it said.

That hasn’t deterred business lobby groups from pushing for a corporate tax rate closer to the OECD average of 25 per cent.

“Reducing the company tax rate is the most decisive way to encourage private sector investment that will lift productivity and competitiveness,” Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said.

Industry is also clear the government needs to curb spending to sustainable levels.

The Business Council of Australia has recommended the government avoid any new spending commitments that cannot be offset by savings. It also wants an overhaul of the healthcare system, and the aged pension and retirement income systems.

Business lobby group Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry has asked for reforms to facilitate more private sector investment in infrastructure – a call Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has heeded – and a roadmap for workplace relations reform.

Snubbed Khawaja not pinning hopes on Ashes recall

The stylish number three suffered a further blow on Thursday when he was left out of Australia’s one-day squad for next month’s Champions Trophy in England and Wales.


Being excluded from the nation’s formidable one-day team is nothing to be ashamed about given the batting riches at selectors’ disposal.

However, the India snub was a bitter pill to swallow for a player who had averaged 66.75 in the preceding test series against Pakistan after topping the runs list in a losing cause against South Africa.

Rubbing salt into the wounds, Khawaja was left to carry the drinks during the four-test series in India and watch his replacement Shaun Marsh manage only 151 runs at an average of 18.87 from his eight innings.

“The most frustrating thing for me was not to play those three ODIs in New Zealand,” Khawaja told Fox Sports (长沙桑拿,foxsports长沙桑拿按摩论坛,长沙夜网,).

“I got pulled out of that series to prepare for India and then not playing was a bit hard.”

The plain-spoken Khawaja has had a frosty relationship with selectors in the past.

As Australia lurched to an emphatic defeat in Sri Lanka last year, he was axed, somewhat harshly, for the third and final test along with opener Joe Burns.

He made his displeasure with selectors clear.

Still stinging from the omission, Khawaja told local media he and Burns were “scapegoats” for the team’s wider failures, an indiscretion that earned him a quiet “chat” with coach Darren Lehmann.

Former players and media pundits have repeatedly accused Australia’s selectors of being poor communicators and particularly ham-fisted in their handling of dropped players.

But Khawaja said there were no hard feelings from his India disappointment, with Lehmann having gone out of his way to let him down easily.

“To Boof’s credit I had a chat to him about all that stuff and he came up to me and he actually knew where I was at in that things had not worked out,” said the Pakistan-born 30-year-old.

Khawaja is likely to be restored to Australia’s top order for the Ashes, given the lefthander’s fine record on home pitches over the past two seasons.

But he has learnt not to look too far ahead.

“It is the pinnacle of cricket when you represent Australia — playing against the old enemy,” he said.

“But to be frank it is still far away and a lot can happen between now and the Ashes.”

(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Security at Don Dale to be stepped up

Improved security cameras and electronic surveillance, better training and a full security audit have been recommended for the Northern Territory’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.


The Territory government has released a review of security arrangements at the controversial facility, which found a range of infrastructure and operational issues.

The government says it will move on improvements as a “matter of priority”.

Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield says the number of escapes at Don Dale in recent months is unacceptable and highlights the urgent need to address security problems.

“Every Territorian has the right to feel safe and expects their homes and businesses to be secure, especially from young offenders being held in detention,” she said on Friday.

Conditions inside Don Dale and the treatment of youths in the centre, east of Darwin, sparked the ongoing royal commission into juvenile justice in the Northern Territory.

Footage aired on ABC television showed inmates being tear-gassed, spit-hooded and shackled.

The review of the facility also came after a number of recent escapes, including in March and again earlier this month when two inmates fled through a window and were at large for more than two days.

It found that razor wire on the perimeter of the centre was not preventing escapes and described the effectiveness of electronic security equipment, including cameras, as dubious, with routine failures.

As well as infrastructure improvements, the review calls for more training for staff to better classify inmates, regular training exercises with police to improve the response to escapes, and the appointment of a security compliance officer.

Ms Wakefield said the government was not shying away from the work needed to fix Don Dale and the wider youth justice system, and work was already under way to implement the review’s recommendations.

“Improving services and facilities for youth in detention is one of many steps we are taking as part of our historic overhaul of the youth justice system,” she said.

Qld mayor denies donation wrongdoing

One of Queensland’s longest serving mayors says he was unaware property developers bankrolled half his election campaign through a trust until a recent corruption investigation.


Allan Sutherland was re-elected to the Moreton Bay Regional Council in March 2016 on the back of large contributions from the Moreton Futures Trust.

A Crime and Corruption Commission investigation has heard this week that the trust received donations from several property developers to the tune of $137,000.

Mr Sutherland told the commission on Friday he knew the trust was paying for his campaign’s expenses but it was his wife Gayle who dealt directly with accountant and trustee Kirby Leeke.

“I’d be happy not to be involved in the money in any way, shape or form,” Mr Sutherland said.

He said he did not know property developers had made large contributions to the trust until recently when investigators first approached him.

The commission was told Mr Sutherland was suffering from serious health issues about the time of the election and did not check the trust’s disclosure form, which is publicly available on the state’s Electoral Commission website.

“It was probably the last thing on my mind,” he said.

The mayor’s own disclosure form shows he received more than $118,00 from the trust and does not list the individual developers.

Mr Sutherland said he understood the public’s suspicion of donations, particularly from developers, but stated he thought he was doing the right thing because it seemed “cleaner” if the trust paid his campaign bills.

“I was happy not to know – it’s hard to have a conflict when you don’t know who the donor is,” he said.

“I thought I was doing the right thing, I’ve made every attempt to do the right thing.”

Mr Sutherland also brushed off suggestions he and five other councillors had worked together as a group, despite promoting themselves as independent candidates.

The commission heard Mr Sutherland approached candidates and offered to pay for campaign material featuring them together such as billboards and how-to-vote cards.

He also wrote letters of endorsement for three candidates that were mailed to constituents.

One of the candidates, councillor Peter Flannery, said the total $3677 cost of his promotional material was paid for by the Moreton Futures Trust but did not believe he or the mayor had done anything wrong.

“I think it’s all legal and above board,” Mr Flannery told reporters.

All the joint how-to-vote cards featuring the mayor and a candidate were almost identical in style and layout and shared the slogan “for a bright future”.

Mr Sutherland said he did not think the candidates and himself had run as a group because they shared no common policies, election platform and had no leader.

He also emphasised that payment was made on the condition the candidate would declare the contribution.

Candidates are allowed to run as a group if they formally register with the Electoral Commission.

The CCC hearing, which is investigating funding and disclosure allegations from Queensland’s 2016 council elections, will resume on Wednesday.

Manus Island detainees in class action case

Forty people currently held in the Manus Island detention centre may be brought to Australia to testify in a class action trial being live streamed around the world.


The class action group’s lawyers want the Australian government to bring the 41 detainees from Manus Island to Melbourne and otherwise may ask for a hearing in Papua New Guinea.

The government has agreed that eight people currently in detention centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Western Australia will give evidence in the Melbourne court.


The class action led by Iranian-born Majid Karami Kamasaee has 1905 group members, which the plaintiff’s lawyers Slater and Gordon says covers the majority of people detained on Manus Island since 2012.

The detainees’ barrister David Curtain QC on Friday said the detainees who remain on Manus Island should be brought to Melbourne.

Mr Curtain said the fallback position was that the Victorian Supreme Court will be asked to journey to Manus Island.

“We are keen that if the Commonwealth can arrange for detainees in Australia to be brought to the court, we believe they can arrange for detainees on Manus Island to also be brought to the court,” he said.

The court heard it was not known how many of the detainees could potentially be resettled in the US as part of a deal between the Australian and American governments.

Watch: Dutton weights in on Manus Island shooting

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“Presumably a proportion at least of those 41 will be interviewed by representatives of the United States government with a view to possible relocation to the United States,” Justice Michael McDonald said.

Justice McDonald said it is up to the plaintiff if there is to be an application for the court to convene in PNG to hear from the Manus Island detainees.

He noted that holding a hearing on Manus Island would depend on issues such as the available facilities, accommodation for a large cohort of people and the costs involved.

The six-month trial begins on May 15 and the Manus Island detainee witnesses are not expected to give evidence until August.

The trial will be live streamed so all 1905 class action group members can follow the case, in what Slater and Gordon believes is the first time Australian court proceedings will be streamed overseas.

The legal firm has said the case will be the largest and most forensic public examination of the events and conditions at the Manus Island detention centre, which is due to close on October 31.

The class action alleges the detainees suffered serious physical and psychological injuries as a result of the conditions in which they were held on Manus Island.

They are also seeking damages for false imprisonment after the PNG Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was unconstitutional.


PNG police dismiss Dutton’s explanation of Manus Island unrest

A senior PNG police officer has disputed Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s claim that concerns about the welfare of a local boy led PNG soldiers to storm the Manus Island detention centre.


Mr Dutton \alleged the violent incident – which left one asylum seeker injured on Good Friday – began after three asylum seekers were spotted leading a five-year-old boy into the camp.

The immigration minister suggested Manus Island residents were worried that the boy had been sexually assaulted.


But local police commander Inspector David Yapu has rejected the claims, telling ABC News Mr Dutton was referring to an unrelated incident which involved no allegation of sexual assault.

“If there was a sexual assault, a formal complaint would be made by the parents for the police to pursue investigations,” Mr Yapu told ABC News.

Mr Yapu clarified that a 10-year-old boy was brought into the centre to receive food in the days prior to the attack, but that there was no suggestion he was harmed.

“He was given some fruits by the residents in the centre and then he was taken out again,” he said.


“So there was nothing done to him and also there was no official complaint by the parents of that small boy.”

Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Mr Dutton said the incident may have been caused by a local boy being led to the camp.

“I think there was concern about why the boy was being led, or for what purpose he was being led, away back into the regional processing centre.”

Watch: Dutton weighs in on Manus Island shooting

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Mr Dutton’s comments were immediately rejected by Manus island asylum seeker and journalist Behrouz Boochani.

Aust immigration minister lying. He wants to hide truth about 14 April. I ask him to read #Manus police statement. Nothing there about a boy

— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) April 20, 2017I ask politicians, media to stop immi minister spreading false allegations. He doesn’t know anything about Manusian culture. Dangerous lie.

— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) April 20, 2017


Lowndes unhurt from Phillip Island crash

Craig Lowndes has walked away from a spectacular flying crash at Phillip Island, missing half of Friday’s Supercars practice but vowing to return for the weekend’s races.


Lowndes left the track at 240km/h in Friday’s warm-up session, hurtling through the gravel and into the tyre wall which threw his Commodore into the air.

Seconds earlier, title-chasing DJR Team Penske driver Fabian Coulthard had a lower-impact run-off into the wall in a dramatic day at the circuit.

Both men were unhurt from their impacts but left their teams with plenty of thinking to do ahead of an expected wet race meet.

Chaz Mostert led the pack, setting a new practice lap record of 1:29.5747.

He was one of five Falcons in the top seven, with Shane van Gisbergen the fastest Holden in second place.

Lowndes said his right front tyre blew.

“You don’t want a right front tyre going on a left-hand corner,” he said.

“I became a passenger and the car sailed through like it was an ice rink.”

Lowndes was a spectator for the second practice session as his Commodore was repaired, and he was impressed by Mostert’s pace.

“By the looks of those times, we need to do something,” he said.

Team Vortex engineers said car No.888 would “100 per cent” be right to go for the 250km races on Saturday and Sunday.

Coulthard, second in the championship standings behind leader van Gisbergen, hit the fence at low speed after sailing through a gravel trap earlier on the same lap.

He looked confused by the incident but his Falcon was in better shape than Lowndes’ Commodore.

Simona De Silvestro also brought a red flag after running wide and getting bogged in her attempt to re-enter the field.

A forecast of intermittent rain across the weekend raises the possibility of more incidents.

Van Gisbergen said he was looking forward to the lengthened Saturday race, which was just 120km last year.

“250 kilometres – it’s going to be pretty physical … I’m pretty confident,” he said.

There was further bad news on Friday for Lowndes, who was docked 15 points for an incident with Cameron Waters at the Symmons Plains round in Tasmania.

US accuses UN Security Council of ‘Israel-bashing’

The United States says it wants to shift the focus of the UN’s monthly meeting on the Middle East.


The US holds the rotating presidency of the Council for the month of April.

Its Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, says she wants to shift the focus.

“Regrettably, these monthly meetings routinely turn into Israel-bashing sessions. That’s the way this Security Council has operated for years. It’s a formula that is absurdly biased against one country.”

She says the meetings do little to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The truth is these Security Council meetings don’t do anyone in the region any favors, least of all the Israelis and the Palestinians. These meetings do nothing to bring the parties closer together. They actually work to push the two sides apart.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, echoed her comments.

“I ask a simple question to those who insist on keeping the focus on Israel here in the Security Council. Is Israel at fault for the spread of ISIS? Is Israel to blame for the dire situation in Yemen? Is Israel responsible for the daily massacre in Syria? The answer is a resounding no.”

Mr Danon has welcomed efforts to widen the scope of the Security Council meetings and focus on what he says is the real danger in the Middle East: Syria.

“The time has come to finally put an end to the obsessive focus on Israel. The time has come to stop the scapegoating of the Jewish state for every war and conflict in our region. This council should remain focused on stopping the countries that support sadistic dictators who gas their own people.”

Russia last week blocked a Western-led effort at the UN Security Council to condemn the deadly gas attack in Idlib.

Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Petr Iliichev, disapproved of the US effort to change the focus of the Middle East meeting.

“We would like to express categorical disagreement with the attempts to tailor this meeting to the domestic context and exclusively to an American foreign policy focus. For example, in the concept note of this meeting, the name of which has traditionally been ‘the situation on the Middle East including the Palestinian question,’ our American colleagues have remained silent on this very Palestinian question. Furthermore, in the document prepared by the US delegation, we do not find any reflection in the danger from the threats posed by ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra, other extremist and terrorist groups of all kinds and those groups’ violence that causes suffering to civilians in Syria, Iraq and Libya.”



French presidential candidates unite behind police after attack

France’s 11 presidential candidates were engaged in a live televised debate when the deadly police shooting happened on the Champs Elysees in central Paris.


Analysts had long feared such an attack ahead of the election, following a string of incidents since 2015 that have left over 230 people dead.

The leader of France’s nationalist National Front party, Marie Le Pen, says what she calls the “nightmare” is starting again.

Expressing sadness at the loss of life, she has attacked the government and her rivals for not doing more to prevent such attacks.

“I don’t want us to get used to Islamic terrorism. I don’t want us to say to our young people that they will live daily or long-term with this danger. I want us to put an attack plan in place against this Islamic terrorism, with a series of measures — borders, but also attacking the root of the evil … in other words, the ideology itself, which has been festering on our territory for years.”

Before the shootings, polls showed voters more concerned about unemployment and their spending power than terrorism or security.

But in the aftermath, analysts have warned that is likely to be different.

In the final days of campaigning, Marine Le Pen hardened her stand against Muslim immigration, linking it to the security fears.

She says she wants to end what she calls “mass immigration” and reassert French cultural identity through a number of measures.

They include a ban on dual nationality for non-Europeans.

Ms Le Pen says she is frustrated to see her worst fears of an attack realised, and she has promised counterterrorism will be a key priority if she is elected president.

“Lenience is over. Naivety is over. We can’t leave a weak country to our children. To defend them, we need clarity, we need courage, we need determination, and it’s that which you, the French people, must demand and choose.”

During the campaign, presidential hopeful Francois Fillon also pledged to eradicate such attacks.

He has called for an alliance with Russia to fight what he calls “Islamic totalitarianism,” and he wants to strip French militants returning from the Middle East of their citizenship.

He says fighting terrorism has to be the priority of the next president.

“We are faced with an act that we can’t yet totally make sense of, but, sadly, it seems to resemble an act of terror. There seem to have been other acts of violence elsewhere in Paris, and, given the circumstances, I am cancelling my campaign events. And I’d like to say that the fight against terrorism will have to be the absolute priority of the next French president.”

Earlier this week, police said two men arrested in Marseille had been planning an attack ahead of the election.

The Paris prosecutor said a machine gun, two handguns and three kilograms of explosives were found at a flat in the southern city, along with militant propaganda.

Candidates in the election said they had been warned about the Marseille attackers.

Another leading candidate, Emmanuel Macron, says the first duty of the president is, and must be, to protect the country.

“We all aspire to become president of the republic, and the first duty of the president is to protect …This threat is incalculable, and it’s going to be a part of our daily lives for years to come.”

The former economy minister in Francois Hollande’s government has declared himself the ideological opposite of Marie Le Pen.

He says he hopes to convince voters a more progressive government is needed to adapt to the challenges of the future.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, formerly with the Socialist party, joins those three candidates as the frontrunners in Sunday’s first round of voting.

The 65 year-old quit the party after 30 years in 2008 and has now started his own, France Unbowed, which has won large support from the French Communist Party.

He has promised to renegotiate France’s arrangement with the European Union or leave the bloc altogether.

If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the vote on Sunday, the top two advance to a run-off vote on May 7.



Labor gazumps Coalition with housing affordability plan

The Turnbull Government has indicated housing affordability will be a focus of the Budget next month.


But Labor is on the front foot, with Bill Shorten revealing how he would tackle the problem if he wins the next election.

“We have taxation and superannuation laws which favour property speculators over first-home buyers. There is a crisis in housing affordability in Australia. Now we are 45 kilometres from the centre of Sydney, and these well-made houses behind us – house and land packages – are going for $700,000 and $800,000 each. The great Australian dream of owning your first home is rapidly becoming the great Australian nightmare.”

Labor is sticking to its original plan to reduce negative gearing tax concessions and increase tax on capital gains.

But it’s also announced a suite of extra measures, including more fees for overseas investors.

It also wants to ban self-managed super funds from borrowing money to discourage them from investing in property, which they say is over-heating the market.

But the Coalition’s Michael Sukkar says discouraging investment would slow down the construction of new houses.

“Anybody who has a job that is in any way related to the residental construction industry will be hurt, because again we know that if you increase the taxes on investment into residential property, there will be less investment. If there’s less investment, there’s less housing. And if there’s less housing, it’s worse for the entire market.”

The Coalition has remained tight-lipped about the details of its housing plan.

The idea of letting young home-buyers dip into their superannuation funds to pay for a deposit has been floated by some in the government, including Tony Abbott, but rejected by the prime minister.

The government has all but ruled out any change to negative gearing.

But Labor’s Chris Bowen says any serious housing affordability solution must include changes to tax.

“Any plan which doesn’t involve reform to negative gearing is a sham. Any reform that doesn’t involve reform to capital gains tax is a joke.”

Labor would also put pressure on the other states to follow Victoria in implementing a tax on empty properties.

It would also create a so-called bond aggregator, which would make low-interest government loans available to those building cheap housing.



Le Pen fires up Marseille ahead of weekend elections

Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron are barely hanging on to their status as favourites to advance to the run-off vote, set down for next month.


Conservative Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon are gaining momentum, and with a large number of voters still said to be undecided, few are sure exactly what might happen.

Barely a day after police foiled an imminent terror attack there, 10,000 supporters of Marine Le Pen’s National Front have streamed into the southern French city of Marseille.

It’s where the 48 year-old Ms Le Pen has been campaigning, and there’s no lack of enthusiasm amongst her supporters.

“Here in Marseille, it’s not a French town. It’s a big melting pot. So I think Marine Le Pen is our last hope for the future of Europe.”

“She’s the first woman for politics in France. She will be winning. I am sure of that.”

There was similar adulation inside Ms Le Pen’s rally.

She’s thanked supporters for coming out despite the terror arrests in the city.

“Well done for coming here in such great numbers, despite the legitimate fears that came from yesterday’s event in Marseille!”

The crowd stomped their feet in glee for the woman they say is helping reclaim their French identity.

Ms Le Pen repreated her four key campaign pledges: to seal France’s borders, to abandon the euro, to tax employers who hire foreign workers, and to negotiate a better deal with the European Union.

Ms Le Pen claims if she can’t get a better deal with the European Union, France will do as Britain is doing, and leave the bloc – a so-called “Frexit”.

She says she is the only candidate who can deliver real change.

“No one is fooled! The only candidate who has a chance to overthrow the elite and dismiss the oligarchy is I!”

She says the nation needs a president who wants to continue living in France like the French.

That remark so stirred her supporters, they delivered a spontaneous rendition of the National Anthem.

Ms Le Pen is the first right-wing contender within realistic reach of the French presidency since the end of the Second World War.

She’s riding a wave of new populism.

But there are some amongst her support who dismiss any comparison between her and the successful populist candidate who won the presidency on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

“There is a very, very big difference between (US president Donald) Trump and Marine Le Pen. I don’t like Trump because he’s a fool. But Marine Le Pen is not a fool.”

Ms Le Pen’s controversial views enjoy far from universal support, though.

Around 500 anti-Le Pen protesters clashed with police in Marseille and tear gas was used, although they were kept well back from the venue of her rally.

Whether her views are popular enough, however, will ultimately be decided at the ballot box.