Brown’s NRL woes are strategy: Bennett

Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett has accused his Newcastle counterpart Nathan Brown of making allegations over other NRL’s clubs’ manipulation of the concussion rule to cover up his own strategic shortcomings.


Brown says rorting of the NRL’s concussion policy across the game is rife as coaches seek an unfair advantage in exploiting the rule.

Brisbane thumped Newcastle 53-0 last weekend in a match in which the Knights lost a number of players to the concussion rule.

However, Bennett said coaches could not blame the rules when they lost.

“I know there are a couple of clubs under investigation at the moment. I think it is a great rule and I respect it,” Bennett said on Thursday.

“But Nathan found himself under the pump by having four hit-up forwards sitting there (on the bench). If you lose a back and you’ve got four hit-up forwards, it is not going to work for you. That’s the risk you take. If you take that risk and you have a bad night, you can’t blame the rules for that.”

Souths mentor Michael Maguire said he didn’t believe there was a widespread flouting of the rules among the coaching fraternity.

“No, I haven’t seen that,” Maguire said.

When pressed further on whether Brown might be misinterpreting things, Maguire said: “that is his opinion”.

However, Melbourne, Queensland and Australian skipper Cameron Smith said he was concerned some sides could be taking advantage of the concussion rule.

“It does seem that there is an increase of players getting taken off the field with concussion or a trainer saying that there is concussion now and they are finding themselves coming back on the field within the 15 minute time frame,” Smith said.

Storm on guard for Warriors fullback

Melbourne don’t have to worry about injured Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck running around them; instead they have to stop his replacement Tuimoala Lolohea running over them.


Test star Tuivasa-Sheck will miss their Anzac Day NRL clash at AAMI Park on Monday night, ruled out for the season with a knee injury.

But the Storm skipper says Lolohea presents a sizable problem himself.

“He’s a big kid, and he’s an aggressive kid. He’s hard to handle, so while they lose Tuivasa-Sheck’s speed and ability to beat defenders one-on-one, Lolohea doesn’t worry about running around blokes, he just runs over the top of blokes,” Smith said.

The Melbourne hooker was impressed by Lolohea’s performance at five-eighth last round, rating it as the Warriors’ best attacking show of the season.

The teams met in round three, with Smith saying their stern defence was key to their 21-14 win.

But with New Zealand hooker Issac Luke and burly winger Manu Vatuvei back in the Warriors line-up, he’s expecting an even tougher contest.

“They are playing more consistent football now so it’s going to be an even bigger challenge for us,” Smith said.

The teams have met on Anzac Day six times, with the Storm leading the head to head 3-2, with one draw.

Smith said the match was worth more than just a win.

“I think for the teams that are lucky enough to play on this day, it is a little bit more then just the two points,” Smith said.

The sides also square off for the Michael Moore trophy, named in honour of the Storm’s inaugural football manager who died in Auckland on the night of the opening round clash in 2000.

“When we speak to anyone that was at the club during his time, they say he represents something of an Anzac,” Smith said.

“He always looked out for his mates, and whenever things got hard he performed at his best, so this match is important to us on many levels.”

Australia’s first national newspaper for kids launched in Sydney

Australia’s youngest newspaper has officially launched.


Crinkling News, a national newspaper for young Australians, unveiled its inaugural issue yesterday, vowing it “was time for kids to have a place at the country’s table of ideas.”  

The brainchild of journalist Saffron Howden, Crinkling News is a weekly 16-page newspaper and aims to give students aged seven to 14 all the news that’s fit to print, “without the boring or scary bits.”

Speaking at the launch at the Australian Museum in Sydney, Ms Howden said the publication will tell the news in a kid-friendly way, from the latest scientific discoveries to natural disasters, and even federal elections.

“We want to bring children into the national conversation,” Ms Howden said.

“That’s why all our opinion pieces are written by kids, and that’s why all our book, movie, game and arts reviews are written by kids.”

Crinkling News’ first edition also features exclusive interviews with Australia’s political leaders by budding teenage journalists

Madeline Murphy, 15, and Diya Mehta, 14, travelled to Canberra for Crinkling News and between them sat down with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Greens Leader Richard Di Natale.

The young reporters covered Question Time and grilled the politicians about issues including mental health, renewable energy and their favourite book characters.

Ms Mehta said her interview with Malcolm Turnbull initially caused her to have “an internal freak-out” but that quickly gave way to “a strange sort of calm” once she realised all politicians are “just human.”

“Another thing: he talks a lot,” she told the audience.

“His answers are a novella of a thing, with reminiscences and personal stories woven together.”

National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell, who officially launched Crinkling News, said the newspaper was a vital addition to the media landscape.

“It gives kids the opportunity to realise their right to a voice by sharing their news, their ideas and their concerns,” she said.

“By getting involved … kids can set their own agenda and talk about the things that matter to them. They can exchange ideas with both each other and with adults – who, after all, are just children who have gone past their use-by date.”

Ms Howden said she isn’t fazed about launching a newspaper at a time when print publications face strong headwinds from digital media and social networks.

“Crinkling News is first and foremost a newspaper,” she said, adding: “I think kids know better than us the pleasure in that tactile newspaper experience – they’re lapping it up the world over.”

UK newspaper First News, on which Crinkling News is based, has more than two million readers a week according to its website, and there are similar publications in France, Germany, Austria, Norway and India.

Crinkling News is available via subscription here.

Woodside upbeat on Myanmar and overseas

Woodside Petroleum is upbeat about its growth prospects in Myanmar as it looks to snap up assets amid low oil prices.


The energy giant has made two gas discoveries in the Rakhine Basin in Myanmar over the past six months, and chief executive Peter Coleman said more detail on the company’s plans to generate revenue there would be provided soon.

“The investor day in May will give a better line of sight to where we think commerciality in Myanmar will come from,” he told reporters after the company’s annual general meeting.

Shareholders delivered a so-called first strike during the meeting, with more than 27 per cent of votes going against Woodside’s pay for senior executives.

A no vote of 25 per cent or more at next year’s AGM could lead to the Woodside board being spilled and all directors needing to be re-elected.

Mr Coleman’s remuneration totalled $US7.55 million in 2015, down from $US8.46 million in 2014, while the company’s net profit plunged 99 per cent to $US26 million.

He said the company would examine its remuneration policies in the coming months.

“We will work with the board and go through a very thoughtful process,” he said after the meeting.

“The current structure is driving the right behaviours. I don’t feel it’s doing anything other than focusing on long term shareholder value.”

Mr Coleman also expressed confidence in the company’s governance processes, in the wake of recent allegations that energy services company UNAOIL has corrupted the global oil industry by delivering millions in bribes on behalf of well-known multinationals.

Some Woodside staff have left the company in the past for violating the company’s code of ethics, he acknowledged.

“That’s a testament to the seriousness in which we take our code of ethics,” Mr Coleman said.

“The controls and processes we have in place to discover unethical acts is industry-leading in many ways.”

US queries China’s SCS intentions

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken has questioned China’s intentions with its massive land reclamation project in the South China Sea during a visit to Vietnam.


“The United States and Vietnam share the interest in maintaining peace and stability in the region. So do China. But its massive land reclamation project in the South China Sea and increasing militarisation of these outposts fuel regional tension and raise serious questions about China’s intentions,” Blinken said during a speech to several hundred students at Vietnam’s National University in Hanoi.

China claims the entire South China sea, a water area believed to be rich in oil and gas and is one of the world’s busiest maritime lines.

The territorial claim is disputed by other countries in the region, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

“The United States will defend our national interest and support our allies and partners in the region. We are not looking for bases, but we will continue to sail, to fly, to operate anywhere that international laws allow,” he said.

Blinken said the United States welcomes China’s peaceful rise and that he hoped China will “act in accordance with international norms and rules and laws”, because that not only benefits China but also other countries.

He said ignoring those rules and the laws would alienate many countries and over time diminish and not expand China’s power.

Blinken’s trip comes ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama to Hanoi in late May, when he is expected to discuss a range of issues, including the South china Sea and human rights, with Vietnam’s leaders.

Blinken said the Vietnamese government should release all political prisoners it is holding and stop arresting those who are “exercising their internationally recognised rights”.

UN goals on Indigenous people in danger of failing

Levels of disadvantage were found to vary across nations, and being Indigenous in a wealthy country did not necessarily lead to better outcomes

The Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Health Population Study provides a snapshot of how Indigenous people across the world are tracking now in comparison to the wider population.


It was commissioned by the British medical journal The Lancet.

Executive Editor Stephanie Clarke says it reveals the circumstances of Indigenous people in countries around the globe.

“The aim of this is to establish a baseline of health measures that we can compare against in the future. And also hope that governments will take notice of the poor state of health of the Indigenous groups we looked at – most of them – take more account of Indigenous people in their systems.”

The study was lead by Australia’s Lowitja Institute.

It draws on data from 28 Indigenous and tribal groups across 23 countries, and accounts for more than half of an estimated global population of 302-million Indigenous people.

Researchers analysed key data indicators, including life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, low and high birth weight, maternal mortality, educational attainment and poverty.

They found evidence of poorer health and social outcomes for Indigenous people world-wide than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

But the level of disadvantage was not uniform.

Infant mortality rates were found to be at least twice as high in Indigenous populations in Brazil, Colombia, Greenland, Peru, Russia, and Venezuela than in the benchmark population.

Life expectancy at birth was five or more years lower for Indigenous populations in Australia, Cameroon, Greenland, Kenya, New Zealand, and Panama than for the wider population.

In some instances Indigenous people were found to be doing better than the benchmark population.

The Chief Executive of the Lowitja Institute, Romlie Mokak says in Myanmar for example the Mon people fared better in educational attainment and economic status.

“It kinda of wets your appetite to think there are Indigenous people whose circumstances are not deficit in some areas, as is often presented as the case, but is actually better than the wider population.”

The study finds a great deal of work still needs to be done if the United Nations is to meet its 2030 goals of ending poverty and inequality.

It makes three recommendations:

That governments develop targeted policy responses to Indigenous health; improve access to health services; and gather Indigenous data within national surveillance systems.

Chief Investigator and senior writer Professor Ian Anderson from the University of Melbourne says having good data is essential.

“It is absolutely critical if you are going to focus on making good policy. If you are going to focus on improving access and addressing the social factors that result in health disadvantage.”



Besieged banks flag their own major review

Besieged Australian banks have unveiled a major review which they hope will win back customer trust as the industry faces the ongoing threat of a Labor-instigated royal commission.


The Australian Bankers’ Association has announced an independent review that will cover sales incentives and commissions, treatment of customers and protection of industry whistleblowers.

The banking lobby group said customers, shareholders and employees expect bank behaviour to meet high ethical standards and while satisfaction ratings were high, acknowledged that “there is more to do”.

The banks’ six point plan will include a review of sales commissions and product-based payments in financial advice, practices which have been a focus of complaints.

Commissions and payments will either be changed or removed “where they could lead to poor customer outcomes”.

The ABA said the changes would “strengthen the alignment of remuneration and incentives and customer outcomes”.

Banks have also pledged to improve treatment of customers and whistleblowers, amid growing public anger towards the industry which books billions in profit each year.

An independent customer advocate will be established in each bank to deal with complaints from retail and small business customers.

“This package aims to address consumer concerns about remuneration, the protection of whistleblowers, the handling of customer complaints and dealing with poor conduct,” ABA chief executive Steven Munchenberg said.

The new measures come a day after the federal government announced improved funding and powers for the corporate regulator, ASIC, including a new commissioner focused on prosecutions of misconduct in the financial sector.

Labor has pledged to hold a royal commission into the banking sector if it wins the federal election in June. Under the raft of measures, protection of whistleblowers will be standardised across the banking industry, including independent support, and protection against financial disadvantage.

The banks will also set up an industry register, which would extend existing identification of rogue advisers to any bank employees.

A review of the Code of Banking Practice will also be fast-tracked, and completed by the end of the year.

Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer said the banks have given “a lot of thought to how conduct and culture be strengthened across the industry.”

The industry needed to make sure that product-based payments are “aligned to good customer outcomes” and where things go wrong, customers can have their complaints dealt with “efficiently and effectively”, Mr Hartzer said.

The banking industry has also voiced support for the government’s decision to introduce an industry funding model for ASIC and the four biggest banks, National Australia Bank, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Banking, have pledged not to pass on the ASIC costs to customers.

The industry has appointed lawyer Gina Cass-Gottlieb, from Gilbert and Tobin, to lead the work on the new measures and the selection of an independent expert to oversee implementation.

CIMIC confirms guidance after profit lift

Construction giant CIMIC has reaffirmed its full year guidance after lifting first quarter profit.


The company formerly known as Leighton Holdings made a net profit of $130.3 million in the three months to March 31, up five per cent from a year ago.

CIMIC added new work of $3.1 billion during the quarter and said it is poised to take advantage of significant opportunities at home and abroad.

“We will focus on winning our fair share of projects in Australia, given our competitive position, and on harnessing our know-how for the expanding PPP market,” chief executive Marcelino Fernandez Verdes told the company’s annual general meeting.

The group is analysing around $50 billion worth of infrastructure and mining projects that will be awarded during the remainder of 2016.

CIMIC is on track to meet its full year profit guidance of between $520 million and $580 million, he said.

The company made a $520.4 million profit in 2014/15.

Recent major project wins include the second phase of the Gold Coast light rail project, a $1.3 billion contract mining extension in central Queensland and a contract to design and build the second phase of Sydney’s WestConnex road project.

The group is now looking to bid for other light and heavy rail, road and social infrastructure projects as it looks to strengthen its local presence.

CIMIC took control of mining services specialist Sedgman last month, and has launched a takeover bid for residential property developer Devine.

It is also targeting on expanding its Thiess contract mining arm in North and South America.

CIMIC shares dropped 16 cents to $35.97.

Tigers Deledio, Maric to face AFL’s Demons

Richmond look set to have three of their most-important players back in action for Sunday’s AFL clash with Melbourne.


The 13th-placed Tigers have made yet another sluggish start to a season, winning only one of their first four games in the absence of talismanic duo Ivan Maric (back) and Brett Deledio (quad).

They were both included in an expanded 25-man squad on Thursday evening along with prolific midfielder Anthony Miles, but with Deledio likely to have to prove his fitness in a final Saturday training session.

Deledio trained well at Punt Rd on Thursday, with coach Damien Hardwick saying the 29-year-old had made a significant breakthrough last weekend, when his quad improved enough for him to kick a full-sized AFL ball.

“From our point of view, it’s been a long process and one that we think we’re over the hump,” Hardwick said on Thursday before the teams were named.

“It’s going to be a tough call because he’s an important player.

“We’d love to have him playing this week but we’ve also got a long season in front of us.”

Maric was also recalled for the MCG date against the Demons, having proved his fitness in the VFL.

“He’s got enough minutes into himself now so we’re looking forward to having him back,” Hardwick said.

“He’s obviously an important player and also a spiritual leader for our footy club.”

The third significant inclusion for Richmond was Miles, who regained form and fitness with 30 possessions and 12 tackles last weekend in the reserves.

Miles played all 23 games last season and finished fourth in Richmond’s best-and-fairest award.

But the Tigers will be without tough defender Nick Vlastuin, who will miss with a leg injury.

Hardwick insisted it wouldn’t take much for the Tigers to turn their form around, as they did in 2015.

“I think back to last year when we were two-and-four and, in the Collingwood game, we were under the pump at quarter-time and then, all of a sudden, it just clicked,” he said.

“I think we won 13 of our next 16 games.

“… we have been floundering a little bit – there’s no doubt about that.

“But we’re still incredibly confident in the squad we’ve got to play some really good footy.”

The Demons regained 2015 best-and-fairest winner Bernie Vince from suspension and clever small forward Jeff Garlett from injury.

Christian leaders call for Morrison to reverse planned foreign aid cuts

A coalition of prominent Christian leaders have written to treasurer Scott Morrison urging him not to go ahead with scheduled cuts to Australian aid in next month’s federal budget.


The government is expected to cut foreign aid by $224 million, leaving around $3.8 billion for the 2016-17 aid budget.

The cut may make Australia’s aid contribution the least generous it has ever been as a proportion of national income.

In a Senate Estimates hearing in June last year, DFAT officials said spending on overseas direct aid in 2016-17 would only make up 0.22 per cent of Australia’s gross national income – the lowest percentage on record since 1984, and possibly earlier.

The letter, which SBS understands was sent to the treasurer’s Canberra office earlier this week, was signed by various regional and national leaders in the Uniting, Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran churches.

“As leaders within Australia’s Christian denominations, we write to call on you not to proceed with planned cuts to Australia’s aid budget,” the letter said.

“Coming on top of more than $11 billion in cuts to aid since coming to office, this will be the fourth time the Government has targeted Australian aid for cuts.

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“Australia’s support for aid and the flourishing of our neighbours is fundamentally a moral question and it rises above partisan politics.”

Mr Morrison’s office declined to comment on the letter.

“The Government doesn’t speculate on the Budget,” a spokesperson told SBS. “The Budget will be handed down on May 3.”

The national coordinator of Micah Australia, which organised the letter, said he was optimistic the budget could be changed at the last minute.

“There are genuinely budget difficulties,” Ben Thurley said.

“But, despite us being wealthier than we’ve ever been, we’ve chosen to turn our backs on international engagement. We’ve chosen to withdraw from a strong commitment to the global fight against poverty, and instead we’ve become more self protective and less generous.”

Mr Thurley said the signatory churches saw the budget as a “moral document”, not just a financial one.

Charity group Save the Children has estimated $224 million is enough to vaccinate 92,000 children against diseases like polio and measles, enrol 54,000 children in school and provide a safe birth for 34,000 babies and mothers.

Among the letter’s signatories is Australian Christian Churches president Pastor Wayne Alcorn, who leads the denomination of the church Mr Morrison attends in Sydney.

Mr Thurley said the treasurer’s past actions, including his maiden speech to parliament, suggested a “genuine commitment” to helping people in poverty.

“I would hope that in inviting him to live up to his best sentiments and his faith, our faith… he would be open to reversing a decision that actually wasn’t his in the first place.”

The Coalition government has cut $11 billion from the aid budget since it was elected. The $224 million cut was scheduled in the late-2014 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, before Mr Morrison was treasurer.

The 2016 budget will be released on May 3.

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