Vic debt will leave state ‘exposed’: Libs

Climbing government debt despite financial windfalls and mounting taxes on Victorians have been attacked by the state’s opposition in its budget reply.

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Speaking at a Liberal fundraising lunch in Melbourne on Friday, Shadow Treasurer Michael O’Brien accused the Andrews government of not doing enough to tackle the cost of living and increasing crime.

The Labor government delivered its third budget on Tuesday, revealing $1.9 billion over four years to fight family violence and a $1.2 billion surplus for 2017/18.

It also showed debt was to spiral to $29 billion, or about six per cent of gross state product, by 2021 – a climb Treasurer Tim Pallas has urged Victorians to embrace.

Tax income has also grown massively, partly due to the real estate boom.

But Mr O’Brien pounced on the government for increasing debt despite the growing tax income and Melbourne Port lease sale windfalls.

And he said the government’s higher spending and debt based on cyclical revenue was a risk.

“Our budget is now hugely dependent on the heat of the property market and expecting that to continue,” he said.

“But even the budget papers acknowledge if interest rates rise and the property market cools, our budget will be extremely exposed.”

With 18 months until the state election, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy used the event to rally the party faithful around his “hungry” team.

He and Mr O’Brien also accused the government of being more concerned with political point scoring when it came to the commonwealth than working with Turnbull government.

Ahead of the state and federal budget, the Victorian government revealed a $1.45 billion rail revival plan entirely dependent on commonwealth money.

Blues give Thomas freedom to attack Pies

Former Collingwood favourite Dale Thomas has been encouraged to play with freedom when Carlton take on the Magpies in the 254th instalment of the AFL’s most celebrated rivalry.

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Blues coach Brendon Bolton made two changes for Saturday’s highly-anticipated clash at the MCG, with Thomas returning after a two-match break and former Adelaide forward Sam Kerridge also included.

Thomas struggled over the first month of the season before missing the Blues’ 90-point mauling by Port Adelaide.

The 29-year-old was ready to resume last week, but is no longer an automatic senior selection.

With question marks over his future, he responded with a commanding 31-possession performance for the Northern Blues at VFL level.

“Dale played a really good game at VFL level and comes in in-form,” Bolton told reporters on Friday.

“We just want to make sure that he plays with the freedom that he played with in the VFL.”

Thomas played 157 games, including the 2010 premiership decider, in eight seasons with the Pies before his high-profile free agency switch to Carlton.

“That’s not a consideration in selection,” Bolton said of Thomas’ return.

“The integrity around our match committee is based on form, but I’m sure he’d be determined to play well against his old team.”

Both teams have been inconsistent on their way to 2-4 records, but head into Saturday’s clash as last-start winners.

Carlton notched a 19-point victory in round six that kept winless Sydney anchored to the bottom of the ladder, while Collingwood stunned previously unbeaten Geelong by 29 points.

“What I did see last week was a Collingwood team that moved the ball a bit more aggressively through the corridor,” Bolton said.

“So we need to be on defensively, there’s no doubt about that, all our layers of defence need to be strong.”

The Blues have proved difficult to score against at times this season, but are yet to break the 100-point barrier in a game after six rounds and have scored the fewest points in the league.

“All supporters love to see scoring … I think it’s important to understand that we’re working really hard in that space,” Bolton said.

“We are young in our front half, by and large, but it’s a process of developing decision-making at the right time and leading patterns.

“That takes time to gel … it’s a work-in-progress for us.”

Young gun Jacob Weitering overcame a thigh issue to take his place.

The former No.1 draft pick struggled with a corked thigh in the Blues’ win over the Swans, finishing the game with his leg heavily strapped, but Bolton declared him a certain starter.

Youngsters Jack Silvagni (shoulder) and Zac Fisher (hamstring) departed the side, with Bolton hopeful the pair will only miss one game.

The Pies will be without injured speedster Travis Varcoe (hamstring) for the match that will also serve as a celebration of the club’s 125th anniversary.

Jordan De Goey will be keen to impress after serving a three-game club-imposed ban, with important defender Ben Reid and Jackson Ramsay also included.

Weekend sport preview

Sunday afternoon will see the climax to an A-League season that has been dominated by Sydney FC.

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However, Melbourne Victory are level with Sydney on one win each in the two previous Grand Finals played between the sides.

Despite being favoured to win this time around, Sydney defender Alex Wilkinson knows they have to stay focused.

He was part of the Central Coast Mariners side that almost upset Brisbane Roar in the 2011 Grand Final.

Wilkinson says, if they don’t stay on task, they can be beaten.

“You can’t switch off at all. And we’ve talked about that in previous games this year as well it’s about playing the full 90 minutes, 120 minutes, whatever it takes and not switching off at all because you know we’ve seen throughout the past and I’ve seen firsthand you can get punished, but apart from that its business as usual.”

As for Melbourne Victory, the chance to upset Sydney on its own ground would be something to be cherished.

But the pre-game expectations of a Sydney victory will mean nothing if the Sky Blues fail to hit form.

Victory Midfielder James Troisi doesn’t believe his team deserves to be the underdogs.

“I don’t see it as an underdog and if you want to state it that way, that’s fine. Like I said, we’ll go into Sunday arvo as a final and you know both teams on the pitch.”

And you can see that Grand Final match on SBS Viceland on Sunday afternoon.

The final ever Anzac Rugby League Test takes place tonight in Canberra, where Australia takes on New Zealand.

Australia captain Cameron Smith will play in his 50th test match and becomes only the second player behind Darren Lockyer to achieve that milestone.

The match won’t be played again after a review of the Rugby League representative calandar.

The match will give the winning nation an important psychological boost ahead of October’s World Cup.

In the AFL this weekend, tonight’s match is St Kilda against the Greater Western Sydney Giants who are in second spot on the ladder.

Arguably the biggest game of the round sees Richmond taking on the reigning Premier Western Bulldogs.

The Tigers are looking to bounce back from a 76 point drubbing at the hands of Adelaide last round.

Meanwhile, the Sydney Swans remain winless after six rounds.

But coach John Longmire will be hoping to break the losing run on Sunday when his side takes on the Brisbane Lions.

Longmire says he isn’t feeling the pressure.

“Whether you’re a player or a coach or anyone in the football department you understand the responsibility that you’ve got to be able to perform on a weekly basis obviously it’s a bit more pointed as a coach. But we’ve enjoyed some fantastic times at this football club as a collective and we’ll work through the tough times as a collective.”

Sydney is the only team in the competition yet to post a win this campaign.

The Super Rugby season continues, with the Australian Rugby Union yet to confirm which of either the Melbourne Rebels or Western Force will be the franchise to be cut from next season.

It’s been six weeks since the decision was confirmed and the players of both sides are starting to express their unhappiness about not knowing their immediate future.

Rebels Centre Tom English says some of his colleagues are already looking elsewhere.

“Rip the band aid off. Indecision is just going to lead to more players leaving overseas. If you cut down the team that’s just 30 less jobs available so you’ve just got to have a backup plan otherwise you’ll be left with nothing.”

The Rebels play South Africa’s Lions on Saturday afternoon.

Super Netball enters its final month before the finals arrive.

It’s tight at the top with the Melbourne Vixens leading the Sydney Giants by a point on the ladder. The Sunshine Coast Lightning are a further point behind.

The Vixens take on the Queensland Firebirds on Saturday evening, while the Giants travel to take on the Adelaide Thunderbirds on Sunday.

In cycling action this weekend the Giro D’Italia gets underway.

The home nation’s hopes resting on two time winner Vincenzo Nibali.

Australia’s Rohan Dennis will look to take another step to being a contender in all three Grand Tours, the Giro, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana.

The race begins in Sardinia later tonight and ends in Milan in three weeks’ time.

 

 

Key issues for regional Australians in this year’s Budget

For long-time dairy farmer Noel Campbell, feeding his herd of 400 cattle is an unavoidable cost.

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But he says the twice daily milking process, which takes less than two hours each time and costs far more than it should, because of a law stipulating a minimum three-hour shift for engaging casual staff.

“So we’re actually paying if we need someone for four-hours for the day we’ve gotta pay them for six-hours so it makes it quite difficult to do so we tend to end up doing the work ourselves rather than employ people.”

And there’s a view that a lack of flexibility in the labour market is impacting the broader agriculture sector.

Tony Mahar from the National Farmers Federation says the nature of seasonal and sometimes remote work, means an “agriculture specific” visa should be considered as part of the Budget and review to the overall visa system.

“We need to have the capacity to get people from overseas that can come and help us get products out of the ground off the trees and onto the consumers tables and into their kitchens.”

Mr Mahar says the budget must also deliver certainty around the long-awaited inland rail infrastructure project, which would link key agricultural hubs throughout Victoria New South Wales and Queensland

“We’ve had feasibility studies and we’ve had committments from government which is positive – we need to actually get a firm committment of a billion dollars to getting this inland rail actually built.”

If completed, the 1,700 kilometre track will become Australia’s largest rail-freight project, and Jack Archer from the Regional Australia Institute says it will offer significant savings and improved opportunities for the sector

“With better pathways to markets, cheaper pathways to markets businesses and agricultural producers in those areas will be able to tap into the Chinese markets in a different way.”

Other issues front-of-mind for those living outside metropolitan centres include further commitment to mobile phone blackspot funding, access to effective internet facilities and upgrades to the Bruce and Pacific Highways.

Jack Archer from the Regional Australia Institute says – if funded appropriately – regional centres have the potential to provide a solution to a metropolitan problem.

“There’s an opportunity to address the housing affordability crisis by making it easier for people to consider regional living and transfer out into regional areas.”

Another key aspect of incentivising regional living is improving rail transport for those living in country areas centres and commuting to cities for work.

In Victoria the state government says it will spend almost $1.5 billion on regional rail upgrades, but needs the federal governement to release money it says it’s owed from the lease of the Port of Melbourne

Despite the challenges of living in the bush, Tony Mahar says the right high-level decisions could offer progress and solutions.

“As sectors like mining and manufacturing come down from in the mining case peaks agriculture will provide growth productivity and profitability.”

 

Teen critical after botched Qld carjacking

A teenager is fighting for her life in a Gold Coast hospital, while another is in police custody after an apparent botched carjacking.

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The 15-year-old girl suffered severe head injuries when she was flung from a car on a suburban street in Helensvale just after 7.30pm on Thursday.

The girl had allegedly been leaning through an open door brandishing a knife and demanding a 24-year-old woman give up her car.

The panicked driver drove away at speed, with the girl’s head hitting either the pavement or a parked car when she was thrown clear of the vehicle.

Unaware the girl had been injured, the woman called police after driving a short distance to report the attempted robbery.

A boy who was with the girl fled the scene. He was arrested on Friday and is in police custody.

“She just believed that she’d managed to speed off,” Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Procter said of the driver.

“She seized on an opportunity at the time when she thought they’d pulled their hands out of the car.”

The girl was placed in an induced coma and remains in critical condition at the Gold Coast University Hospital.

Det Snr Sgt Procter said the incident began when the teens approached the woman at Harbour Town Shopping Centre and claimed they were being followed by a man.

She offered to give them a lift and they asked her to drive them to Mullewa Crescent, eight kilometres away.

Mr Procter said police were confident the story given by the pair to gain the lift was a ruse and the driver, who suffered a small cut to her hand, was deeply affected by the incident.

“She’s done what most of us would do,” he said.

“She was pretty shaken up.”

Local resident Angus Knox said he could see puddles of blood on the road outside his family home when he arrived at the scene.

Mr Knox, who was initially suspected by police to be the missing boy, had been concerned something had happened to his grandmother inside their home.

“I’m pretty sure there was some blood on the road. You could see big puddles of it. It wasn’t cool,” he said.