Nines debacle maybe not be so bad: Broncos

by admin on August 30th, 2019

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Crashing out at the Auckland Nines may not be such a bad thing after all, stand-in Broncos skipper Andrew McCullough says.


Brisbane were one of the tournament flops in coach Wayne Bennett’s official return to the club, winning just one of three games.

It was in contrast to their stellar 2014 run in which they just fell short in the inaugural Nines final against North Queensland.

But McCullough did not believe it would affect their confidence in 2015 as they switched their focus on their hectic pre-season trial schedule.

“We were runners-up at the Nines last year and just scraped into the eight (in NRL season proper) – it can go both ways,” he said of their post-Nines fortunes.

“We put some kilometres in the legs in Auckland but the 13-man trials start now.

“Wayne didn’t speak about winning or losing – it was about effort (in Auckland).

“Those good habits can come through now.

“We have some quality trials coming up. That’s going to be the crunch games for us.”

New Zealand Test forward Adam Blair is set to make his Broncos debut in Saturday night’s trial against the Cowboys in Mackay, part of an unprecedented pre-season schedule.

Bennett will juggle his squad with Brisbane set to fly out to the UK for an expanded World Club Challenge clash with Wigan on February 21 – the same weekend the club contests a trial against Queensland Cup side Redcliffe.

Bennett will also coach the NRL All Stars team on February 13.

“There’s a bit of travel. I think we are only home six days in February,” McCullough said.

“It’s pretty full on but that is the way it is.

“You just have to roll with it.”

NRL All Stars representative Corey Parker, Indigenous All Stars Sam Thaiday and Justin Hodges aren’t expected to feature in the Mackay trial.

Neither will the recovering Jack Reed, Matt Gillett, David Stagg, Corey Oates, Jarrod Wallace and Dale Copley, who all have shoulder injuries.

Emotions to run high for Indo-Pak tie in Adelaide

by admin on August 30th, 2019

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The Pool B contest was sold out in 20 minutes and no other team in world sport will be under as much pressure as the two that day with 1.


3 billion unforgiving cricket-crazy fans following the contest ball by ball.

Emotions run high every time the south Asian neighbours, who have fought three wars since independence and share frosty relations over the Kashmir region they both claim, clash on a cricket ground.

Pakistan, champions in 1992, have never beaten twice winners India at a World Cup.

Many of their fans would not mind their team crashing out from the World Cup early, providing they beat their neighbours. The rivalry assuming the Orwellian concept of serious sport – war minus shooting.

“For many, it’s bigger than World Cup,” former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar told a cricket conclave in Delhi on Monday.

“It completely locks out 1.3 billion people. The tension is unbearable and the players’ effort level doubles. We could never beat India in World Cup but, God willing, that would soon happen,” said the quick known as the ‘Rawalpindi Express’.

A veteran of many such contests, Harbhajan Singh was part of the eventual champion Indian team who beat Pakistan in the 2011 semi-final at Mohali, a contest that gave him sleepless nights.

“The dressing room atmosphere is always tense,” said the feisty off-spinner who could not make the cut for this year’s World Cup.

“Much before the dressing room, you think about it in your hotel room. Before last World Cup’s match in Mohali, I could not sleep the night before, thinking what if we lose.

“Fortunately we won the next day and again I could not sleep, this time because I was so overjoyed.

“A defeat against Pakistan means media would roast us and fans would pelt stones at our house,” said the 34-year-old.

His team mate from the 2011 squad, Piyush Chawla, said the pressure does not come from the team management.

“It comes from elsewhere. Even family members and friends remind us it’s a match against Pakistan,” said the 26-year-old leg-spinner.

“Fielding in the deep, you often hear the crowd behind warning you ‘better win this match or it won’t be easy to get out of the stadium’.”

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

Indonesia’s drugs strategy under fire

by admin on August 30th, 2019

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Indonesia’s strategy in its war against drugs is under attack, with lawmakers airing concerns over the prison drug culture and experts challenging the deterrent effect of the death penalty.


President Joko Widodo has already sent six death row drug offenders to the firing squad this year, and Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will be among the next.

Mr Joko says the death penalty is needed because Indonesia’s future is under threat from a “drugs emergency”.

His position is based on a study by the National Narcotics Board (BNN) which finds up to 50 Indonesians die from drug-related causes each day.

Under pressure at a parliamentary hearing in Jakarta on Monday, BNN chief Anang Iskandar reportedly admitted prison guards were involved in distributing drugs behind bars.

He told reporters the BNN was aiming to dismantle up to 50 prison drug networks, as well as rehabilitate 100,000 drug addicts this year.

Mr Anang backed the death penalty as a strong deterrent, as long as executions were carried out regularly.

“If we do it in 2015, the next one should not be in 2016 or once a year, this will not create a deterrent effect,” he said.

“A deterrent effect is only caused by continuous executions and the time interval between should not be too long either.”

Indonesia’s Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, an independent research institute, says the evidence does not support the idea that capital punishment is a deterrent.

“It’s a myth,” institute director Supriyadi W. Eddyono said.

“Many studies have shown it.

“I find the BNN is not consistent either.

“There’s the death penalty for some and on the other hand, there are domestic drug dealers who receive remission.

“If they want to make tighter laws for drugs offenders, they should also limit the remission given to drug offenders.”

The institute is also preparing a legal challenge to Supreme Court advice to limit the number of judicial reviews, known as PKs, to one per convict.

The courts are now considering an application from Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, for a second judicial review.

Their lawyers argue past errors were made in their case and that the Bali Nine ringleaders are reformed after 10 years’ jail.

Indonesia’s Attorney-General HM Prasetyo says the application does not alter his plans to include the Australians in the next round of executions, on a date to be determined.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reportedly been advised there is nothing that can be done to save the two Australians from execution.

The message was conveyed to Mr Abbott on Australia Day by Indonesia’s ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, News Corp Australia reports.

Two celebrated Melbourne artists, Ben Quilty and Matthew Sleeth, visited Kerobokan prison on Tuesday for a prison art workshop that had been planned some time ago.

Quilty said both Sukumaran and Chan are doing well.

“They are carrying an enormous weight on their shoulders, but they are still hopeful,” he told reporters.

Sleeth said it would be a shame to end their lives when they had done so much to rehabilitate prisoners.

“I would like to see the Indonesian authorities celebrate their success in this rehabilitation and in the art room, and keep it going.”

Interest rates cut to record low

by admin on August 30th, 2019

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(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

As the Reserve Bank of Australia prepared to announce whether it would move to cut interest rates today, economists were suggesting it was a 50-50 proposition.


Plenty of reason to do it, plenty of reason not to.

But when it, indeed, happened, it still packed a surprise for some.

Ron Sutton takes a look why.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

On the one hand, there was an argument for cutting the interest rate, essentially that, for the sake of economic growth and jobs, it was time to make a move.

On the other hand, there was an argument for doing nothing, that the weaker Australian dollar and the collapse in the world oil price were enough to spur the economy.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has decided on the former, dropping the cash rate for the first time in a year and a half, from 2.5 per cent to a record low 2.25.

It was, says University of Sydney economist Dr Mike Rafferty, a surprising act of activism by a Reserve Bank not known for such things.

“We’re seeing this across the world, and this is really interesting. A lot of central banks across the world are now being quite activist about rates of economic growth. So it’s a very interesting time in central banking.”

Canada’s central bank surprised economists there by reducing interest rates last month.

And the European Central Bank announced a money printing program of more than a trillion euro.

In Australia, Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens says the available information suggests the country’s economic growth is continuing at what he calls a “below trend” pace.

And he says, in a statement released by the Bank, domestic demand growth, overall, is quite weak.

“The board judged that, on balance, a further reduction in the cash rate was appropriate. This action is expected to add some further support to demand, so as to foster sustainable growth and inflation outcomes consistent with the target.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey has welcomed that thinking.

“I have no doubt that this cut in interest rates will help to lift business confidence and consumer confidence, and that means more jobs for Australians. We obviously live in a low interest world. The majority of our trading partners, apart from China, have virtually zero interest rates. So the Reserve Bank does have more room to move.”

Mike Rafferty, from the University of Sydney, brings up that same point and says, indeed, he expects a second rate cut this year.

And Dr Rafferty’s guess is, since this first move came earlier than many economists expected, the second move may not be far behind.

“The trouble with the interest rates is they have a time lag. They take time to sort of impact. So it really means that this rate cut really won’t have a significant impact for several months. And it’s likely, in that situation, that the Reserve Bank’s probably not going to wait that several months to see whether this one works. They may even be tempted to go again. So, it’s interesting times, again, as I said. This is, in some ways, uncharted waters for central banking, not just in Australia but internationally.”

Some economists had voiced concern a rate cut could inflate already high house prices, and Dr Rafferty says Australia saw a couple of years ago how fast that can happen.

But Joe Hockey says an International Monetary Fund report due out within days will show, globally, economic obstacles remain a concern.

And, back home, he says he expects the banks to pass on the rate cut immediately — and not just for housing loans.ho

“I also expect this to be passed through, particularly, for small business owners and to be passed through for everyone that has a credit card. We expect this to cut through right across the spectrum of credit.”





Gallen eyes 2016 NRL swansong

by admin on August 30th, 2019

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Paul Gallen has revealed he has pencilled in 2016 as his NRL swansong.


The NSW State of Origin captain has opened up on his future, revealing his desire for a one-year contract extension with Cronulla for next year before likely finishing his career in the English Super League.

The 33-year-old warhorse said he was feeling as fit as ever after his first full pre-season in seven years, and had no thought of ending his career after 2015 or stepping down from representative football earlier.

Gallen began talks on a contract extension last season before then CEO Steve Noyce was squeezed out of the embattled club.

He said he was was keen to pick up negotiations with current club CEO Lyall Gorman and begin planning for the end of his career.

“Another year (would be ideal),” he said.

“I know I’m getting on in age but this is the first time I’ve done a pre-season before Christmas since 2007 – it’s been a really long time because of the tours I’ve been on.

“Physically I’m still right up there in terms of strength and fitness, so I’m not falling behind in areas there and still training really good and I still really love the sport.

“I think one more year and then I’ve always said I wouldn’t mind going overseas.”

One of the few 80-minute forwards in the competition, Gallen said he would probably scale back his playing minutes this year because of the young talent coming through the club.

He was excited about the likes of Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird and touted the possibility of Wade Graham taking over the club captaincy or co-captaincy next year.

“I’ve had a lot of influence on Wade’s career and he’s said to me and publicly that I’m the only reason that he’s at the club,” Gallen said.

“I got on really well with him and I think the world of him and that’s one thing I said to Noycey (Noyce) – if I did stay on, I’d like to give Wade the captaincy, if not the co-captaincy.”

Qld Labor has secret plan to govern

by admin on July 30th, 2019

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Queensland Labor claims it has kept a secret plan to make the transition to government since before the election.


There have been reports the shock results of the state election on Saturday night also caught the party, reduced to seven MPs three years ago, completely by surprise.

Former Labor treasurer Keith De Lacy even says the inexperience of the party’s potential ministers could have a destabilising effect on the economy.

But a spokesman says Labor has had a plan “known to only a handful of people”, including former long-time treasurer Terry Mackenroth, to move to government since before the election was called.

Labor Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk’s office drew up the plan with input from Mr Mackenroth and other senior state Labor figures.

“It is ready to be implemented should Labor be called on to form government,” the spokesman told AAP.

However, neither the Liberal National Party (LNP) nor Labor has secured the minimum 45 seats needed to form a majority government.

Labor held 42 seats and the LNP 38 with five seats too close to call on Tuesday afternoon.

Two Katter’s Australian Party MPs – Rob Katter and Shane Knuth – and independent Peter Wellington could hold the balance of power.

The three crossbenchers are set to hold formal talks with Ms Palaszczuk and an LNP negotiation team on Wednesday.

The potential kingmakers have highlighted firmer scrutiny of government as their key priority.

Mr Knuth said both major parties had used their huge majorities in the past to “smash through legislation” that “devastated this state”.

“We are not in love with the Labor party or the LNP,” he said.

“I have not seen good governance in this last 11 years and we are welcoming of the fact that it (the election) is bringing back a balance.”

In the event of a hung parliament, Mr Wellington would only support the party that was committed to bringing back strong oversight powers.

“That’s front and centre,” he told AAP.

Mr Wellington also took aim at political donations and said there needed to be a proper investigation into the previous LNP government.

“There have been some serious allegations raised during this election that have to be investigated by an independent body that we all have confidence in,” he said.

“People do not make sizeable donations to a candidate or a political party unless they want something in return.”

No matter if Labor forms a majority or a minority government, senior Labor MP Jackie Trad promised it would be a mature, disciplined government focused on jobs growth.

“We will roll up our sleeves and we will get to work, working, listening and collaborating with everyone, the business community, unions, everyone,” Ms Trad said.

The LNP continued to lie low on Tuesday, insisting they would elect a new leadership team when the count was complete.

Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck flaps into Melbourne

by admin on July 30th, 2019

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Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck has landed in Melbourne, bringing all its sensory delights with it.


The internationally renowned chef’s three Michelin Star restaurant has made the journey from Bray in Berkshire, England, to Melbourne, where it will remain for three months while its Bray residence gets a makeover.

And there’s a reason the maverick chef chose this particular corner of the world.

“Australia has gone food crazy!” Blumenthal said. “They get so excited, so excited about food!”

The famous 15 course menu, centred around molecular gastronomy, will remain the same during its sojourn, although diners will get a taste of Australia too.

“Australia has gone food crazy! They get so excited, so excited about food!”

“We’ve got some beautiful marron from Western Australia,” said head chef Johnny Lake.

“Our lamb is coming from South Australia.”

There’ll also be local wine and whiskey from Tasmania.

The multi-sensory menu, which includes The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Snail Porridge and Sounds of the Sea, reads like a story book, and that’s no accident considering Heston Blumenthal’s inspiration.

“Alice in Wonderland’s the one that does it for me, because the way Lewis Caroll writes, the metaphor side of it is really power and also I love the way he gets Alice to make logic out of surreal situations.”

“It’s theatre, it’s going down the rabbit hole into another land – it’s fun, it should be fun.”

From $525 a head, or $725 with matching wines, dining at The Fat Duck isn’t exactly cheap.

But that didn’t stop more than 250,000 people entering the ballot. Of them, 15, 000 were randomly selected.

“It’s theatre, it’s going down the rabbit hole into another land – it’s fun, it should be fun.”

Ryan Perry was one of them, flying in from Sydney with three others for the opening lunch.

“They’re things you’re not going to eat every day,” he said.

“It’s just a once in a lifetime opportunity, he’s only out here for six months, you know why wouldn’t you want to come here and experience it.”

Stephanie Grentell feels the same way.

“It’s not about the money it’s about the experience, this is something we’ll talk about for the rest of our lives.”


Watchdog bites back at bugging inquiry

by admin on July 30th, 2019

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NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour has warned a parliamentary inquiry any rushed judgment could jeopardise his long-running and much-criticised inquiry into a police bugging scandal.


Mr Barbour defended his two-year probe into a controversial internal police phone tapping operation in which more than 100 officers were bugged, saying critics had failed to understand the huge scale of the investigation.

The independent public watchdog also rejected the claims of NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas that he had tried to silence whistleblowers in the 15-year-old scandal that reaches to the highest levels of the NSW police force.

Mr Barbour faced the NSW Upper House inquiry into his investigation, Operation Prospect, after criticism from police and journalists, that he was hunting down whistleblowers.

Operation Prospect is examining the handling of investigations into Operation Mascot and Operation Florida – two police internal affairs operations from 2000 that allegedly obtained warrants to bug more than 100 officers using false information.

Subjects of bugging found out their names were on warrants after receiving them anonymously through the mail.

Mr Kaldas said he was targeted by officers with whom he was in conflict.

He said the ombudsman humiliated and denigrated him during questions that focused on how he got the leaked warrant rather than any bugging.

But Mr Barbour said he rejected the claims of Mr Kaldas and other critics.

“The conclusions that they have drawn from the durations and subject matters of their own examinations are baseless,” he said.

Mr Barbour revealed that while he had questioned Mr Kaldas for one day he had questioned Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn – the team leader on Operation Mascot – for four days.

He said he did not ask the targets of bugging about how decisions to bug them were taken because they would not have useful information.

“To suggest that my inquiry is focused on targeting whistleblowers is quite simply false,” Mr Barbour said.

Mr Barbour defended the time his $4.9 million investigation has taken, saying it had accumulated more than one million pages of evidence.

He revealed that he is investigating 80 warrants in which Mr Kaldas was named, not just two that had been mentioned previously, and 52 warrants in which a journalist, Steve Barrett, was named.

He refused to tell the committee whether any officer he interviewed had claimed to have a reason for bugging Mr Kaldas.

Mr Barbour stood by his questioning of bugging targets about the leaks, however, saying the removal and distribution of confidential police records had to be investigated.

He warned the committee to not to pass judgments based on incomplete evidence, saying it could make final resolution of the bugging scandal “all the more difficult and possibly impossible”.

Mr Barbour said he would release his report in June.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione will appear before the committee on Wednesday.

Phipps happy to stay put while rivals go

by admin on July 30th, 2019

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Incumbent Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps has no intention of joining his major rivals for a World Cup spot on the European rugby gravy train and wants to stay in Australia for the long term.


It was reported on Tuesday that Australia’s most experienced Test halfback, Will Genia, was believed to have signed a three-year deal with French club Stade Francais, starting after the World Cup.

Also heading to France after that tournament to join Montpelier is Brumbies halfback Nic White, who was the main rival to Phipps during the Wallabies 2014 campaign.

Happily staying put in Australia is 26-year-old Sydney-born Phipps, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2014, when he returned to the Waratahs after three seasons with Melbourne Rebels.

Phipps was a prominent part of the NSW Super Rugby title-winning team and played in all 14 Tests last year, doubling his tally of caps to 28.

He started the last nine Tests, after coming off the bench behind White in the first five.

Phipps signed a two-year contract extension with Australia and NSW in the final week of 2014, tying himself to those teams to the end of the 2017 season.

“I’m very happy with the position I’m in at the moment,” Phipps told AAP on Tuesday.

“I love NSW and I feel I was playing some of my best footy last year, just because I’m back home around my parents and my family and friends from school and uni.

“For me it was a no-brainer.

“I want to stay here. I’ve worked so hard to get into the position I am now why would I go off overseas when there’s still a lot here to complete?

“It’s not like I’ve done anything in the game yet that I can really hang my hat on.

“I just want to be around and working hard at getting Australia back to that top position in the world and NSW back where they belong and try to be a part of it all in the long term.”

Phipps felt both he and NSW would need to improve greatly.

“I don’t think you can be comfortable with what happened last year, and sit back on your heels about that,” Phipps said.

“The improvement that we’re going to need as a team in the `Tahs just to be competing again and improvement in my game that I’m going to need, is pretty astronomical at the moment.”

Phipps is set to make his first pre-season appearance in the Waratahs final trial on Friday against the Chiefs.

Black Caps overwhelm Pakistan in Napier

by admin on July 30th, 2019

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New Zealand have banked two thumping wins over Pakistan heading into the World Cup following a 119-run rout in the second One-Day International in Napier.


In the last official ODI for both teams before the tournament begins next week, New Zealand accrued a mammoth 369-5 before dismissing the tourists for 250 in 43.1 overs.

Rapid centuries to Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor helped build the Black Caps’ fifth-largest score.

Pakistan maintained a slim chance of chasing it down on a flat McLean Park pitch when Mohammad Hafeez (86) and Ahmed Shehzad (55) put on 111 for the opening stand.

However, they capitulated as the required run rate grew, losing steady wickets with only captain Misbah-ul-Haq (45) getting past 13.

Daniel Vettori (1-41 off 10 overs) was at his miserly best, removing danger man Shahid Afridi cheaply, while fellow-spinner Nathan McCullum and seamers Tim Southee, Adam Milne and Grant Elliott all bagged two wickets in a cohesive attack.

Following a seven-wicket loss in Wellington on Saturday, Pakistan’s stocks sunk lower on Tuesday, including news that frontline pace bowler Junaid Khan has been ruled out of the World Cup after failing a fitness test on a thigh injury.

Apart from towering paceman Mohammad Irfan (2-52), their bowlers were picked off with ease, firstly by openers Martin Guptill (76) and Brendon McCullum (31) and then by Williamson (112 off 88 balls) and Taylor (102 not out off 70).

Williamson enhanced his world class reputation while Taylor’s rollicking knock finished with 10 runs off the last two balls of the innings to reach the 100th ODI century by a New Zealander.

It was a 12th ton for Taylor and the sixth for Williamson, who has scored 1014 runs from his last 16 innings at an average of 67.6.

Captain McCullum says his team improved on their 4-2 win over Sri Lanka last month.

“You have to be happy with where we’re at. We’ve played probably a couple of perfect games,” he said.

“We’ve had an outstanding schedule in our conditions, it’s the ideal World Cup preparation for us so there’s no excuses.

“The challenge is to maintain that freshness and momentum that we’ve built up over the last little while.”

Counterpart Misbah has overseen four losses in New Zealand, including setbacks in two warm-ups against an invitation team.

He says his team’s batting is seriously underdone while their bowling at the death needs considerable improvement.

“It was really tough work, I think we’re nowhere near our best, he said.”

New Zealand play unofficial warm-up games against Zimbabwe and South Africa in Christchurch next week before hosting the World Cup opener against Sri Lanka at Hagley Oval, Christchurch on February 14.

Pakistan play their first game against India in Adelaide a day later.