Senior police jailed over Rohingya attacks

Myanmar’s police court has sentenced three senior officers to prison for negligence after Rohingya insurgents overran three border posts in October, killing nine policemen, a government official said.


Several hundred Rohingya men, from a Muslim minority that many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar view as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, attacked the border guard posts on October 9. Most were armed only with sticks.

The attacks set off a crackdown on the minority, prompting more than 70,000 people to flee across the border to Bangladesh.

Information Ministry director Ye Naing told Reuters on Friday an official investigation probed how the poorly trained and barely armed insurgents could successfully stage the attacks.

The government says the militants, who stole weapons and ammunition in the raids, have links to radical Islamists abroad.

The court sentenced the three senior officers in the border town of Maungdaw to one to three years in prison, Ye Naing said.

“They were jailed because they were guilty of negligence regarding security during the October 9 attacks,” he said.

Ye Naing could not specify the date of the sentencing or details of the investigation. Several other high-ranking police officers were still under investigation by the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs, he added.

About 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live in apartheid-like conditions in northwestern Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship.

The United Nations has documented mass killings and rapes committed during the crackdown by security forces that it says may amount to crimes against humanity. No senior police or army officers have been found accountable for these alleged crimes.

The civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly denied almost all allegations against the country’s still-powerful armed forces during what it has said was a lawful counter-insurgency campaign that began in October.

Garmin employee gunned down in Kansas

GPS device-maker Garmin is reeling after one of its employees was killed and another wounded in a shooting at a bar close to their workplace in Kansas City.


The tech company has long revered diversity in its workforce, even when the locale of its ever-sprawling operational headquarters – a largely white Kansas City suburb – didn’t reflect it.

It’s the place 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla came to work a few years ago and his wife said on Friday he willingly spent long hours on an aviation systems engineering team alongside Alok Madasani, a friend and colleague also 32 and from India.

Kuchibhotla’s trek led him to have a kinship with his boss, Lebanese native Didier Popadopoulos, who says he moved to America at Kuchibhotla’s age and once held the same Garmin job.

But Garmin – a billion-dollar tech giant launched in Kansas as a startup by two men nearly three decades ago – is now trying to digest Kuchibhotla’s shooting death on Wednesday at a tavern just down the road from work. Madasani was wounded, along with a stranger who tried to help.

Witnesses say the gunman, Adam Purinton, yelled at the two Indian men to “get out of my country” and opened fire. Purinton, who was arrested hours later at a bar in Missouri, remains jailed on murder and attempted murder charges.

On Friday, Garmin comforted grieving employees at a closed-door vigil at its campus in Olathe, Kansas. Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, addressed the group of about 200 workers, which included Madasani.

Laurie Minard, Garmin’s vice president of human resources, doesn’t believe the shooting will jeopardise its recruitment of workers from overseas.

“We tend to be a family here,” she said at the Garmin campus, which is waging a $US200 million ($A260 million) expansion.

“We want people to feel safe. We embrace it. We encourage it. We support it. It’s extremely important to us about acceptance.”

At any given time, she said, more than 100 Garmin employees are part of a program, which lets American companies bring foreigners with technical skills to the US for three to six years.

IS suicide blast kills 51 near Syria’s Al-Bab

The bomber blew up a vehicle packed with explosives outside a rebel command centre in the village of Susian, eight kilometres northeast of Al-Bab, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


The blast devastated the twin command posts and also seriously wounded a large number of fighters, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Most of the dead were fighters.

There was no immediate claim for the attack but it bore all the hallmarks of IS, which had put up fierce resistance in Al-Bab for weeks.

The strategic town, just 25 kilometres south of the Turkish border, was the jihadists’ last stronghold in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo.

Turkey sent troops into Syria last August in an operation it said targeted not only IS but also US-backed Kurdish fighters whom it regards as terrorists.

With its support, the rebels launched an offensive to take Al-Bab last year.

It has proved the bloodiest battle of Ankara’s campaign accounting for most of the 69 Turkish losses so far.

Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said on Thursday that its rebel allies now had “near complete control” of the town.

The town was also seen as a prize by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, who had advanced to just 1.5 kilometres (one mile) from its outskirts in recent weeks.

On Thursday afternoon, an AFP correspondent heard intermittent gunfire as rebel units continued to clear the heavily damaged town.

Rebels pounded outside Aleppo

The battle against IS around Al-Bab is just one front line in the fighting in Aleppo province.

West of the second city, which government forces took full control of in December, fighting flared with rebels in its western suburbs even as peace talks got under way in Geneva.

Exchanges of rocket and artillery fire first broke out on Wednesday, centred on the rebel-held district of Rashideen, the Observatory said.

The government responded with intensive air strikes on Thursday that killed at least 32 rebel fighters.

“The regime wants to reinforce its positions around Aleppo and is using the rocket fire by the rebels as a pretext to bombard their positions and attempt to drive them out of the suburbs,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

A fragile ceasefire between government forces and non-jihadist rebels has been in force since late December, brokered by regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.

It has led to a sharp reduction in fighting in many areas.


But parts of the country which are held by IS or its jihadist rival, former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, are not covered by the truce.

The talks in Geneva between government and opposition representatives formally opened on Thursday.

They are the fourth round of UN-brokered negotiations, aimed at ending a conflict that has dragged on for nearly six years and claimed more than 310,000 lives.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said: “I’m not expecting miracles,” but warned of dire consequences if the talks “fail again”.


Israeli MP prays at flashpoint Jerusalem holy site

No incidents occurred as Mr Glick, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, toured on Tuesday the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.


Some Muslim worshippers yelled “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) as he left and he waved to them.

Jews are not allowed to publicly pray at the compound to avoid provoking tensions, but Mr Glick admitted praying to himself as he walked the grounds in his bare feet.

He said he prayed for his wife, who he said was in a coma, as well as his family and Israel.


Asked afterwards whether such visits are provocations that risk more bloodshed, Mr Glick told journalists: “Those who are responsible for terror are the terrorists and those who incite them, not the victims.”

At least one other Jewish lawmaker, Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the far-right Jewish Home party, also visited on Tuesday morning, according to the Waqf, a Muslim organisation that administers the site.

Jewish lawmakers were allowed to visit in the morning, while Muslim lawmakers were permitted to do so in the afternoon – although they said they did not intend to do so.

Masud Ganaim, of the mostly Arab Joint List alliance, said allowing right-wing politicians into the compound had “the goal of provoking Arab and Muslim sentiment and inflaming the situation”.

Jordan, the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, condemned the visits as “unacceptable”.

Mohammad al-Momani, minister of state for media affairs, said allowing the visits was an “irresponsible decision that will increase tension and escalation at a place holy to all Muslims”.

He called on Israel “as the occupying power to take measures to prevent provocations by extremists against the Al-Aqsa mosque”.

0:00 UN chief and Palestinian PM on MidEast peace Share UN chief and Palestinian PM on MidEast peace

Mr Netanyahu instructed police in October 2015 to bar lawmakers from visiting the site in the Old City of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque complex and the Dome of the Rock.

It was meant to help calm unrest that erupted in part over Palestinian fears that Israel was planning to assert further control over the compound.

Mr Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he is committed to the status quo there.

Plans to allow a temporary lifting of the ban in July were put off after violence again erupted in and around the site.

Tuesday’s one-day lifting of the ban is intended as a test to see if calm can be maintained.

The site is the holiest in Judaism as the location of the two ancient Jewish temples and the third-holiest in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

It is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Glick, a US-born rabbi, survived a 2014 assassination attempt by a Palestinian over his campaign for Jewish prayer rights at the site before he joined parliament.

Construction work spikes in June quarter

Construction work in Australia spiked in the three months to June, raising hopes of a boost to economic growth.


However some economists expect the one-off surge to be offset by other factors when national accounts for the quarter are released next week.

The value of construction work done jumped 9.3 per cent in the quarter to $51.7 billion, far ahead of market expectations of a one per cent increase.

Total building work done on homes and non-residential buildings rose just 0.1 per cent to $27 billion, while engineering work done, including mines, roads and bridges, surged 21.5 per cent to $24.7 billion.

“Outside of engineering work, the remaining details of today’s release were disappointing,” JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said.

Economists attributed the jump in engineering work to projects in Western Australia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed private infrastructure work jumped 32 per cent, or $4 billion, in the June quarter, nearly matching a $4.1 billion increase in construction work in WA.

Westpac economist Andrew Hanlan said the numbers were likely inflated by the importation of the Prelude floating LNG platform, which set sail for WA from a South Korean shipyard on June 28.

“We had expected the ABS to amortise the value of the platform over the time that it was constructed,” Mr Hanlan said.

“This would see a relatively smooth rise in investment and in imports.”

Economists said improved construction work in the June quarter was a positive for economic growth, but the likelihood of an offsetting import adjustment would mean the volatility will not be mirrored in the national accounts.

Mr Kennedy said there is now upside to JP Morgan’s second quarter gross domestic product forecast of 0.5 per cent, but it would not be changing its tracking estimate.

UN condemns ‘outrageous’ NKorea launch

The United Nations has condemned North Korea’s “outrageous” firing of a ballistic missile over Japan, demanding Pyongyang halt its weapons program, but holding back on any threat of new sanctions on the isolated regime.


North Korea said the launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) was to counter US and South Korean military drills and was a first step in military action in the Pacific to “contain” the US territory of Guam.

The North’s leader Kim Jong Un ordered the launch to be conducted for the first time from its capital, Pyongyang, and said more exercises with the Pacific as the target were needed, the North’s KCNA news agency said on Wednesday.

“The current ballistic rocket launching drill like a real war is the first step of the military operation of the KPA in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying. The Korean People’s Army or KPA is the North’s military.

Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the sea near Guam, home to a major US military presence, after President Donald Trump said the North would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

In a statement the 15-member Security Council said it was of “vital importance” that North Korea take immediate, concrete actions to reduce tensions and called on all states to implement UN sanctions on Pyongyang.

However, the US-drafted statement, which was agreed by consensus, does not threaten new sanctions on North Korea.

China and Russia’s ambassadors to the United Nations said they opposed any unilateral sanctions on North Korea and reiterated calls to halt deployment of a US missile defence system in South Korea.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China is currently discussing the situation with other Security Council members and will make a “necessary response” based on the consensus reached.

“Any measures against North Korea should be under the UN Security Council framework, and should be carried out according to Security Council resolutions,” he told a news briefing.

Tuesday’s test was of the same Hwasong-12 missile Kim had threatened to use on Guam, but the test flight took it in another direction, over northern Japan’s Hokkaido and into the sea.

Trump, who has vowed not to let North Korea develop nuclear missiles that can hit the mainland United States, said the world had received North Korea’s latest message “loud and clear”.

“Threatening and destabilising actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table,” Trump said in a statement on Tuesday.

The North’s latest test launch came as US and South Korean forces conducted annual military exercises on the Korean peninsula, angering Pyongyang which sees the war games as a preparation for invasion.

Kim Dong-yup, professor at the Institute for Far East Studies of Kyungnam University in Seoul said firing the missile from a densely populated area near Pyongyang and over Japan suggested North Korea was confident in the missile’s stability.

“I do not think North Korea factored in much military meaning behind yesterday’s missile launch, rather yesterday’s launch was all about North Korea being stubborn,” he said.

“At the same time, North Korea is hinting that there is room for negotiation if the US and South Korea ends the joint military exercises.”

The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan.

Hajj: The incredible numbers behind the pilgrimage

The Hajj pilgrimage, which starts at Islam’s holiest sites in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, is one of the world’s largest annual gatherings.


Here are some figures illustrating its scale:

More than two million pilgrims are taking part this year, according to official figures, compared to 1.86 million last year and just 24,000 in 1941.Some 221,000 Indonesians are currently in Mecca, the highest ever number from a foreign country, an Indonesian official told the Saudi Gazette newspaper.

Muslim worshippers pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 29 August 2017. Around 2.6 million Muslims are expected to attend.AAP

More than 100,000 security personnel have been mobilised to keep pilgrims safe, the Saudi interior ministry says.Some 17,000 civil defence employees backed by 3,000 vehicles are also helping with security.Thousands of security cameras have been set up along the pilgrimage route, according to a civil defence spokesman.

More readingTens of thousands of air-conditioned tents have been set up in Mina, between Mount Arafat and Mecca, to house pilgrims.The Saudi Red Crescent has mobilised 2,468 employees and 500 volunteers, who will work with 326 ambulances and eight helicopters.

Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.AAP

More than 700 Saudi cooks have been recruited to feed the faithful, Arab News reported.Saudi Arabia hopes to welcome 30 million pilgrims annually in the kingdom by 2030, the Saudi Gazette said, up from the current 8 million. Muslims also flock to the country for the umra pilgrimage, which can be performed at any time of the year.Last year, 712,000 animals were slaughtered during the hajj, according to the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

A Muslim worshipper cries as he kisses the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 29 August 2017.AAP

North Korea says more missiles to come as UN condemns launch

The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile that Pyongyang unleashed on Tuesday represented a major escalation in the face of tensions over its weapons programmes.


In recent weeks it has threatened to send a salvo of missiles towards the US territory of Guam, while President Donald Trump has warned of raining “fire and fury” on the North.

0:00 North Korea launches rocket to counter South Korea-US drills Share North Korea launches rocket to counter South Korea-US drills

After the latest launch Trump said that “all options” were on the table, reviving his implied threat of pre-emptive US military action just days after congratulating himself that Kim appeared to be “starting to respect us”.

The UN Security Council — which has already imposed seven sets of sanctions on Pyongyang — said in a unanimous statement the North’s actions “are not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states”.

Both the North’s key ally China and Russia, which also has ties to it, backed the US-drafted declaration, but it will not immediately lead to new or tightened measures against Pyongyang.

This Aug 29 2017 photo distributed on Wednesday, Aug 30 2017, by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the test launch.AAP

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, on Wednesday carried more than 20 pictures of the launch near Pyongyang, one showing Kim smiling broadly at a desk with a map of the Northwest Pacific, surrounded by aides.

Another showed him gazing upwards as the missile rose into the air.

South Korea’s military said Tuesday that it had travelled around 2,700 kilometres (1,700 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 550 kilometres.

The official Korean Central News Agency cited Kim as saying that “more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future” were necessary.

Tuesday’s launch was a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam, advanced base of invasion”, he said, and a “curtain-raiser” for the North’s “resolute countermeasures” against ongoing US-South Korean military exercises which the North regards as a rehearsal for invasion. 

Wednesday’s statement was the first time the North has acknowledged sending a missile over Japan’s main islands. Two of its rockets previously did so, in 1998 and 2009, but on both occasions it claimed they were space launch vehicles.


Tuesday’s missile overflight triggered consternation in world capitals and on the ground, with sirens blaring out and text message alerts being sent in Japan warning people to take cover.

“Threatening and destabilising actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world,” Trump said in a White House statement. “All options are on the table.”

‘Something serious has to happen’

At the UN Security Council emergency meeting Washington’s Ambassador Nikki Haley warned that “enough is enough” and that tough action had to be taken.

“It’s unacceptable,” Haley said. “They have violated every single UN Security Council resolution that we’ve had, and so I think something serious has to happen.”

The North last month carried out its first two successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile, apparently bringing much of the US mainland into range, but the Pentagon said Tuesday’s launch was judged not to have represented a threat.

Any missile fired by the North at Guam would have to pass over Japan, and analysts told AFP that Pyongyang appeared to have chosen the trajectory as a “half-way house” option to send a message without crossing a red line.

0:00 North Korea fires projectile in eastern direction Share North Korea fires projectile in eastern direction

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was nevertheless visibly unsettled, dubbing the launch an “unprecedented, serious and grave threat.” 

Despite Trump’s rhetoric, officials in Washington privately echo the warning by Trump’s now former chief strategist Steve Bannon that it is too late for a pre-emptive strike against the North. 

“There’s no military solution, forget it,” Bannon told the American Prospect in an August 16 interview, his last before losing his job.

“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Cowboys eye Eels’ formula to beat Broncos

The finals formula is pretty simple for North Queensland ahead what looms as another epic NRL showdown with arch-rival Brisbane on Thursday night – win and you’re in.


However, the Cowboys claim they’ve had their eyes on Parramatta’s blueprint for success against the third-placed Broncos, rather than the NRL ladder.

North Queensland can clinch a seventh-straight finals appearance and finish as high as fifth with victory in the final round clash in Townsville.

Lose and they must sweat on other results over what would be an anxious weekend to scrape into the eight.

“You know what, we honestly haven’t spoken about it – it’s a game, we have to win it,” Cowboys assistant David Fairleigh said.

“To be honest I haven’t even looked at the ladder, I just know we are down near eighth.

“It doesn’t matter how other games go, we’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do.

“We haven’t spoken about ‘if we win we’ll finish wherever’, we’ve just got to get out there and compete.”

Brisbane may be already assured a top-four finish but the desperate Cowboys were given a timely cheat sheet on how to dismantle them thanks to the Eels’ stunning 52-34 rout at Suncorp Stadium last week.

“We are a different team to Parramatta but one thing they did well was they turned up to play,” Fairleigh said.

“What got them in that situation was they were very physical to start with, they upset Brisbane’s rhythm with the way they moved off the line.

“Things didn’t click for Brisbane on the night but we know that can turn around very quickly.

“I am sure we won’t see that Brisbane team tomorrow night.”

Fairleigh also hoped he didn’t see the same Cowboys team as last week despite notching a morale-boosting last round win over Wests Tigers.

While the victory snapped a four game losing run to keep them in the finals mix, Fairleigh said the Cowboys could not repeat their slow start.

“We were lucky enough to have some quality players get us home in the end but Brisbane won’t give us that opportunity,” Fairleigh said.

“We’ve got to play better, that is the bottom line.”

But motivation won’t be an issue ahead of what is expected to be another epic showdown against Brisbane.

Four of the past five derbies have been decided by one point and in extra-time.

“It’s a big game, a big occasion,” Fairleigh said.

“The two teams bring the best out of each other.

“And despite what happened to them last week and our own situation I am sure it will be a quality game tomorrow.”

Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote (ankle) was cleared after training strongly on Wednesday.


* North Queensland have won the last five games against Brisbane in Townsville.

* North Queensland are chasing four straight overall wins over Brisbane for the first time in club history.

* Brisbane have won three of their past four matches as the away team.

Ministers’ decisions could be under cloud

A constitutional expert says it would be wise for ministers under a High Court cloud to step aside or the federal government could face legal action over its decisions.


Five members of parliament, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, face a High Court test of their eligibility under section 44 of the constitution, which bans dual nationals from being MPs.

Another two, including cabinet minister Fiona Nash, will be referred to the court by parliament next week.

One ministerial colleague, Matt Canavan, stood aside when issues were identified about his status.

Professor George Williams, one of the nation’s foremost constitutional experts, says it’s difficult to see that any of the seven MPs facing the court had taken reasonable steps to renounce their citizenship of other countries.

He said that while no law was likely to be undone because it was “tainted” by the election of an ineligible member – based on previous High Court decisions – there were question marks over government decisions.

“The situation of ministers is less clear,” Prof Williams told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

“The wisest course is for them to refrain from making decisions or to step down pending the outcome of the High Court hearing.”

He said this was because their authority to run their departments and to make decisions under legislation depends upon the law regarding them as being properly appointed.

Section 64 of the constitution says that “no minister of state shall hold office for a longer period than three months unless he is or becomes a senator or a member of the House of Representatives”.

“If current ministers are ruled in breach of section 44, they will have made many decisions without apparent legal support from when the three-month period of grace ran out late last year,” Prof Williams said.

He said decisions about contentious matters such as Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland might be challenged in the courts.

The University of NSW academic said the issue may get much worse, and after the court makes its decisions there may be merit in an audit of all MPs which he believed could uncover 20 or more members with eligibility problems of various kinds.

However, an audit would face the difficulty of some members refusing to comply and others arguing it’s a matter for the courts.

Asked whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was right to say he was very confident the court would clear his ministers, Prof Williams said such comments were unwise.

The court will hear the cases from October 10 to 12.

Growth driven by engineering, construction

A surprisingly strong rise in engineering work suggests economic activity has perked-up after a sluggish start to the year.


It will give the Turnbull government something to cheer about as it tries to get the focus back on the Australian economy when parliament sits next week, after the distraction of the citizenship fiasco.

New figures show construction work jumped by 9.3 per cent in the June quarter, buoyed by a 21.5 per cent surge in engineering.

Economists had expected an overall rise of just one per cent.

The rise in engineering, due to the installation of a large piece of LNG infrastructure for a West Australian project, comes after a more modest 2.7 per cent increase in the March quarter and many quarters of negative growth beyond that as the mining investment boom unwound.

Commonwealth Bank economist Kristina Clifton said outside of WA, engineering was also supported by solid infrastructure spending in other states.

The construction data feeds into next Wednesday’s national accounts for the June quarter.

Building construction was more subdued but not unexpected by economists.

Residential construction fell 0.4 per cent while non-residential construction rose 1.1 per cent.

“We expect residential construction to drift lower for the next couple of quarters before rising a little until the RBA begins lifting the cash rate,” Macquarie Research economist Shane Lee said.

The construction data joins already released retail sales and trade that also surprised on the upside.

Ms Clifton says while there are further reports to come before the national accounts, at this stage, the construction figures overall suggest there are upsides risks to CBA’s preliminary forecast for a 0.5 per cent GDP rise in the June quarter.

This would come after the limp 0.3 per cent rise in the March quarter and take into account the impact of Cyclone Debbie in late March.

Treasury had expected the cyclone that hit northwest Australia would reduce economic growth by about a quarter of a percentage point in the June quarter.

Thursday will see the release of business investment spending for the June quarter, followed by company profits and business inventories early next week.

Diana no frivolous airhead: Aus professor

When Bob Graham, his wife and three children were invited to afternoon tea with Princess Diana they thought they were in for a nice chat over tea and treats at her luxury hotel overlooking Sydney Harbour.


But when the family arrived they were stunned to find Diana hiding in the dark.

“She had all the blinds closed and we said, ‘Why have you got the curtains closed because it’s a lovely sunny day’,” recalls Prof Graham, who as head of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute hosted the princess during her three-day stay in November 1996.

“She said, ‘Well, every time I go out on the porch two helicopters take off wanting to take photos’. So she was virtually locked in this room.”

The moment offered a compelling glimpse into Diana’s life and her constant battle to escape the prying eyes of the media.

Diana’s visit was her final one to Sydney, coming just nine months before her death in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997.

It was also her first solo visit to Australia following her divorce from Prince Charles.

Diana was in town to raise money for the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, where her secret boyfriend at the time, heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, had trained.

Prof Graham, like the rest of the world, was unaware of the relationship when Diana visited but remembers that while the princess never mentioned Khan she knew an incredible amount about heart disease.

“I was impressed that she wasn’t just some frivolous airhead,” he said.

“She was someone who was genuinely interested and who had learned quite a lot about medicine and heart disease and had a genuine interest in helping people, and not just because she had someone who happened to be a cardiologist as her boyfriend.”

Diana dazzled Sydney’s social set at a glittering charity dinner for the institute, where pop star Sting serenaded her and hundreds of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse as she arrived.

“It speaks volumes for the people of Australia that despite the passage of time you’ve still both recognised and remembered me,” Diana told the dinner guests.

The confident princess who took Sydney by storm was a far cry from the shy aristocratic 19-year-old who secretly fled to regional NSW 15 years earlier, just two days after Prince Charles asked her to marry him.

Unbeknown to the world at the time, Lady Diana Spencer spent three weeks with her mother Frances Shand Kydd working on wedding plans while staying with a friend at Mollymook on the NSW south coast and the family’s Bloomfield sheep station near Yass in February 1981.

“That was a complete disaster because I pined for him but he never rang me up,” Diana later told journalist and author Andrew Morton in a series of taped conversations he used for his blockbuster book, Diana Her True Story.

After their fairytale wedding in 1981 Diana and Charles chose Australia for their first official tour in 1983 – a trip that also caused angst for the princess.

The royal couple brought their nine-month-old son Prince William with them on the six-week tour, which Diana described as “make or break time for me”.

She found the crowds overwhelming, confiding in tears to her lady-in-waiting at the end of the first week how she wanted to flee home to London.

Prince Charles was also surprised by how wellwishers were more interested in his new bride than their future king.

“Everybody always said when we were in the car, ‘Oh, we’re in the wrong side, we want to see her, we don’t want to see him,’ and that’s all we could hear when we went down the crowds and obviously he wasn’t used to that and nor was I,” Diana told Moreton.

Despite the behind-the-scenes tensions, the tour was judged a success.

The crowds came out in force again when Charles and Diana returned for Victoria’s 150th anniversary in 1985, and Australia’s bicentenary in 1988 when speculation was mounting about the state of the royal marriage.

In between those official tours Charles rekindled his affair with long-time love Camilla Parker Bowles while Diana embarked on a five-year affair with former British Army captain James Hewitt.

But amid the searing summer heat of January 1988, Diana and Charles put on a good public show of togetherness as they spent Australia Day on Sydney Harbour before touring Darwin, Adelaide and Melbourne.

During a rare public speech, Diana pondered the future.

“Like most people with small children I often wonder what sort of world our sons will inhabit in the next century. When I meet people like you all here today, I am encouraged to believe that the future will, after all, be something to look forward to,” she told a crowd in Adelaide.

However Diana’s next few years were far from enjoyable, with prince and princess separating in 1992.

Diana was determined to forge her own path and reduce her public engagements, saying she had found the media attention of the past decade overwhelming and wanted to focus on her sons William and Harry.

Her affair with Hewitt had ended a year earlier, but Diana eventually found love again with Pakistani-born heart surgeon Hasnat Khan and even dreamed of moving to Australia with him to escape the Fleet Street press.

The romance fizzled out just weeks before Diana’s death after Khan refused to marry her because he had no desire to be thrown into the public spotlight.

Prof Graham says while Diana hated the spotlight just as much as Khan, he was struck by how she tried not to let the media attention stop her from doing what she wanted.

“Her attitude was, not that she ever said it, was she just couldn’t give a damn, she just wanted to do what she felt was right, which I thought was very impressive.”

Diana’s thoughts on Australia


“It was make or break time for me,” Diana told journalist Andrew Morton in a series of tape recordings for his blockbuster book Diana, Her True Story.


“It was hot, I was jet-lagged, being sick. I was too thin. The whole world was focusing on me every day. I came back from this engagement and I went to my lady-in-waiting, cried my eyes out and said: ‘Anne, I’ve got to go home, I can’t cope with this.'” – After her first engagement visiting the School of the Air in Alice Springs.

“Everybody always said when we were in the car, ‘Oh, we’re in the wrong side, we want to see her, we don’t want to see him,’ and that’s all we could hear when we went down to the crowds and obviously he wasn’t used to that and nor was I.” – On the royal couple’s surprise at the huge crowds that followed them on tour.

“He took it out on me. He was jealous; I understood the jealousy but I couldn’t explain that I didn’t ask for it.” – On Charles’ surprise at the overwhelming attention paid by Aussies to Diana.

“We didn’t see very much of him (William) but at least we were under the same sky, so to speak.” – On having Prince William with her in Australia.

“I was more grown up, more mature, but not anything like the process I was going to go through in the next four or five years. Basically our tour was a great success.”


“When I meet people like you all here today, I am encouraged to believe that the future will, after all, be something to look forward to.” – In a rare speech in Adelaide

“It’s a bit hot, not what we’re used to in England.” – Diana’s reaction to the oppressive heat in Adelaide.


“It speaks volumes for the people of Australia that despite the passage of time you’ve still both recognised and remembered me.” – On her eight-year absence from Australia.