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Morning Briefing: Scott Morrison pleased with pay gap progress, questions over Lebanon election conduct and Spain approves menstrual leave bill

Good morning. It’s Wednesday 18th May, and here’s a round-up of the latest news.

Finland MPs in favour of NATO membership

Finland’s parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of NATO membership, with 188 out of 199 MPs supporting the move.
The landslide result allows the country’s formal application to be sent this week.
In a sign of solidarity over the the Finnish President has addressed the Swedish parliament.
President Sauli Niinisto spoke of the historical significance of the joint move, saying Russian demands to stop NATO’s expansion aimed to reduce Finland and Sweden’s choice and sovereignty.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has sought to diminish the significance of the two countries joining the alliance.

He says Sweden and Finland already had a long history of taking part in NATO military drills.

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto (L) and Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson walking and talking.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto is received by Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the Adelcrantzska house in Stockholm, Sweden. Source: AAP / Anders Wiklund/EPA

Scott Morrison pleased with gender pay gap progress

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says progress on closing the gender pay gap under his government is one of the Coalition’s important achievements.
He highlighted the figures when asked about his behaviour as thousands of women marched in Canberra last year to draw attention to bullying and marginalisation.
Scott Morrison offered to meet a delegation from the protest in his office rather than address the event in person but his by the protest organisers.
“I was very happy to have that discussion and I would have welcomed the opportunity for that type of a discussion in my office,” Mr Morrison told Channel 9.
“I think what we’ve achieved is very important. I mean the gender pay gap has fallen from 17.4 per cent to 13.8 per cent     

“What that means is under our government women are now getting paid $70 a week more than they were before our government.”

Questions over Lebanon election conduct

Election observers have questioned the conduct of which has resulted in the militant Hezbollah group and its allies losing their majority.
The European Union Observation Mission says there were incidents of violence at polling stations and vote-buying.

Chief observer György Hölvényi says the electoral process and free choice of voters was affected.

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“The atmosphere was really calm but a number of localised tension were reported,” Mr Hölvényi said.

“Often the not really well-trained polling staff could not prevent intrusive behaviour from candidate agents and secrecy of the vote was not always guaranteed”

Spain approves menstrual leave draft bill

The Spanish government has approved a draft bill that widens abortion rights for teenagers and may make Spain the first country in Europe to entitle workers to paid menstrual leave.
The measures are part of a package of proposals that will be sent to the Spanish parliament for debate.

The government proposes giving workers who are experiencing period pain as much time off as they need, with the state social security system – not employers – paying for sick leave.

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Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero says the move is unprecedented in recognising menstrual health as part of female sexual and reproductive rights.

Rescue of fighters ‘ongoing’, Ukraine says

The Ukrainian government is hoping more than 250 fighters extracted from steelworks at Mariupol will be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war.
The Russian government says President Vladimir Putin has personally guaranteed prisoners would be treated in line with international standards.
could mark the end of the Mariupol fight, which has left the city in ruins and thousands of people dead.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar says 53 fighters have been seriously injured and the rescue process remains ongoing.

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