Apr 07

Austin in Knights’ sights in must-win game

When Newcastle attempt to restore their pride this Saturday they’ll have one eye on Canberra’s burly forwards – and the other fixated firmly on Blake Austin.

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Seven losses in the last eight rounds ensures the under-pressure Knights will have desperation on their side when they host the Raiders at Hunter Stadium.

Having slipped to an unenviable 12th spot on the NRL ladder, coach Rick Stone’s men need a win before the bye if they fancy getting their finals aspirations back on track.

But returning skipper Kurt Gidley says that won’t happen if they can’t contain the Raiders’ five-eighth Austin.

“He’s a really good runner of the footy and he’s confident at the moment too, so he’s backing himself to take the line on,” Gidley said.

“He’s one that we watched some video on this morning and we’ll need to be aware of when he has the ball, where he is and make sure we don’t fall for any dummies.”

The Knights looked to have turned a corner in form in last week’s four-point loss to the Warriors.

They were missing a host of veterans then, as well as overcoming the loss of halfback Tyrone Roberts to an ankle injury just three minutes in.

Roberts will be out for at least a month, but his teammates will benefit from the presence of replacement Gidley at No.7 and returning forward Kade Snowden (neck), with fullback Dane Gagai (calf) also expected to play.

This week it’ll be a case of the same game plan, against a bigger pack.

“They always have a pretty big forward pack so in the middle of the field, we’ll need to do a pretty good job there,” Gidley said.

“Obviously the past number of games we’ve been inconsistent.

“Any time we’ve played well we’ve defended really well.

“But we’ve been leaking too many points at different stages of our games and we’ve been inconsistent defensively.”

They’ve at least leaked less than Canberra.

The Raiders have conceded the most points (281) of any NRL team this season despite also having scored the most (275).

Their recent slump of three defeats has seen them slip from top-four contenders to 10th and equal on points with Newcastle.

Raiders forward Frank-Paul Nuuausala admitted the majority of their conceded tries have been let in on the edges, saying the key will be marking the Knights’ dangerous outside backs including Sione Mata’utia, and Akuila Uate.

“They’re the ones who start the sets for their team, so we’ve got to control that and make sure we stop that,” Nuuausala said.

“Then it will be pretty hard for them to get out of their own yard.”

KEY STATS:

*Last week was the first time in six matches that less than 50 total points were scored in a Canberra game.

*The Raiders have let in almost 40 per cent of their tries this season through their right edge.

*Newcastle are conceding the equal-fewest penalties this season (5.3 per game). After losing the penalty count in their opening three matches they have now won every one since.

*The Knights are busting the most tackles (28.3 per game) and making the second-most linebreaks (5.7 per game).

Apr 07

Kirner spent life pursuing social justice

Joan Kirner fought against unfairness even as a child.

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When her dog faced being put down after being caught by the council dog catcher, Ms Kirner and her cousin Max Cole crept up to the dog cart while the catcher was chasing another dog and opened the door.

“We, with five other dogs, ran for the lick of our lives,” Dr Cole recalled.

“Joan hated unfairness and always acted against it.”

The girl with the mischievous sense of humour and no-nonsense attitude grew into a passionate community activist and eventually Victoria’s first and only female premier, never losing her commitment to justice and a fair go.

Former Labor state secretary Jenny Beacham said her friend of more than 40 years stayed absolutely true to the values she started out with.

When a Melbourne primary school principal told new parents their children would be in a class of 54, it was Ms Kirner who stood up and said “no he won’t” and led other young mums in a successful protest to get new classrooms and then teachers.

“Joan didn’t change,” Ms Beacham told Ms Kirner’s state funeral.

“She was still just as ready to stand up for something she didn’t think was fair at the end of her life as she was 50 years ago.

“Those years as premier were tough, but she never stopped grappling with the issues, trying to find a just and reasonable solution.”

She was a tireless crusader for women and education before, during and after her 1990-1992 tenure as premier.

“She was challenging, she was funny, she was generous and loving, sensible and completely glorious all at once,” said Emily Lee-Ack, who worked with Ms Kirner in the Emily’s List Australia organisation she founded to increase women’s participation in Labor politics.

Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, regarded Ms Kirner as an inspiration and a mentor, as did former Emily’s List national co-convenor Hutch Hussein.

“For many she’s not just given us wings, she’s taught us how to fly and along the way challenged and supported us to stretch those wings,” Ms Hussein said.

Osteoporosis made her shorter in stature in her later years but everyone still looked up to a woman who spent her life pursuing social justice, Ms Hussein said.

Friday’s state funeral, attended by senior state and federal Labor figures and former Victorian premiers from both sides of politics, heard Ms Kirner was interested in every aspect of life and had an abiding respect and love of people.

In the days before her death on Monday after a near two-year battle with oesophageal cancer, the 76-year-old apologised to Ms Hussein that she would not be around any longer as a mentor and surrogate mother.

“‘I’m sorry to do this to you,’ she said, as if she had not given me enough over the last 20 years.”

Apr 07

Death toll climbs to 97 as China rights capsized ship

Death toll climbs to 97, hundreds still missingFrustration and anger grow among relatives of the missingShip righted, divers search cabins but no more survivors found

The rescue mission has become an operation to recover hundreds of bodies from the ship, which was carrying 456 people when it overturned in a freak tornado on Monday night.

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Only 14 survivors have been found, including the captain.

Frustration over the lack of information has grown among families of the missing. Seventy-year-old Xia Yunchen burst into a room where senior officials had just finished a media conference, screaming and yelling and demanding answers.

“Is it necessary to treat the common people, one by one, as if you are facing some kind of formidable foe?” said Xia, whose sister and brother-in-law were on board the Eastern Star. 

Xia, from the eastern city of Qingdao, told reporters she had wanted to get into the news conference to hear for herself what the government was saying, and that she wanted an honest investigation because family members doubted the weather was the real cause of the disaster.

“You view the common people as if we are all your enemy. We are tax payers. We support the government. You had better change your notion of this relationship. You are here to serve us. You need to be humane,” Xia said, before being escorted out.

Police then kept reporters back while they moved away relatives and passersby on the street outside.

“The next step is to concentrate on doing a good job of purging the water, raising the boat, overall salvage and looking for victims’ bodies,” Transport Ministry spokesman Xu Chengguang said just before Xia’s dramatic intervention.

Rescuers, many from the military, worked through the night to right the ship. Pictures on state television showed the ship, which had capsized completely, sitting upright in the water.

Large dents and gashes scarred its blue roof. 

Most of the four-deck ship remains under water, sitting on the river bed.

More than 200 divers have groped through murky water after cutting through the hull, searching every cabin on board, but have found no more survivors. 

The weather improved markedly on Friday, after days of heavyrain, which should help rescuers. However it was forecast to worsen again at the weekend.

About 1,200 relatives have come to Jianli county in Hubei province where the disaster happened.

Showing the sensitivity of the disaster, the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, China’s apex of power, called on local authorities to take measures to help grieving families and to “earnestly safeguard social stability”.

Relatives have asked the government to release the names of survivors and the confirmed deaths, and questioned why most of those rescued were crew members.

Some have demanded to know why the boat did not dock in the storm, and how the rescued captain and crew members had time to put on life vests but did not sound any alarm.

Beijing has pledged there would be “no cover-up” in the investigation.

Police have detained the captain and chief engineer for questioning, although authorities have given no details. An initial investigation found the ship was not overloaded and had enough life vests on board. 

(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan, and Engen Tham in SHANGHAI; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)

Apr 07

Dutton flags citizenship law details for dual-national ‘terrorists’

Judicial review of decisions to strip terror-suspect dual nationals of their Australian citizenship will not cover the substance of the cases.

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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will bring a bill granting him the power to deal with dual-national Australians supporting terrorist groups such as Islamic State to parliament within weeks.

Judicial oversight and whether the laws could render someone stateless could be sticking points when the bill is debated.

Mr Dutton said on Friday when asked whether judicial review would not relate to the substance of the case against the suspect: “You’re right and the government’s not going to have the court second-guessing ministerial decisions, as we don’t in relation to other areas of law.

“We’ll do whatever is within our power to keep people safe from terrorism.”

The laws will also have a prospective or starting date, meaning they could apply to people who head off to support IS before the bill is passed.

Mr Dutton said ministerial discretion, rather than the courts, would enable more nuanced decisions to be made.

He compared the hypothetical cases of a 17-year-old who murders people in the name of IS and a teenager who has gone to Syria or Iraq and come back because they “got cold feet before they went into the theatre of war”.

“We have to make a decision about whether or not you would apply the same outcome, stripping of citizenship, to both of those young men in that circumstance,” Mr Dutton said.

“If your argument is that … it should be mandated that if somebody goes there in the name of ISIL, regardless of the circumstances, they still come within the act of being involved in terrorism, by their association, or because they are a party to that particular act, I think that is problematic.”

Apr 07

Yeo, Sheed back for Eagles, Darling closer

West Coast head to Tasmania on a six-game AFL winning streak to face the under-fire North Melbourne on Sunday with Elliot Yeo and Dom Sheed straight back in, and star forward Jack Darling potentially a week away.

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West Coast have battled injury problems since the pre-season with key defenders Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown out for the season after knee reconstructions.

Darling has yet to play in 2015 due to a foot stress fracture.

But the Eagles have exceeded all expectations to compile a 7-2 win-loss record to be in second spot heading to Blundstone Arena to play an enigmatic North Melbourne without coach Brad Scott for up to a month due to back surgery.

West Coast coach Adam Simpson and Kangaroos caretaker Darren Crocker were teammates at North Melbourne and played in a premiership together in 1996.

While not missed in last Sunday’s 56-point thumping of Geelong at Domain Stadium, the versatile Yeo is straight back from suspension while midfielder Sheed returns after a hand injury.

“I was reasonably worried that he (Yeo) wasn’t in our side last week and we did contemplate the appeal, but we got through the game, got the win and now we have him back,” Simpson said.

“It’s a good problem to have and things can change really quick. But this week we had a really good match committee and we think we’ve got a pretty good side.”

While the Eagles are in Tasmania, 22-year-old forward Darling will play his first game of the season in the WAFL for East Perth on Saturday.

If he gets through unscathed, Simpson sees no reason he couldn’t then come in to face Essendon the following Saturday in Perth.

“We’ll see how he goes, manage his game time and see how he pulls up. He’s pretty fit. If he can manage 80 to 90 minutes then we’ll look at him next week,” Simpson said.

“He’s been keen and other coaches have been keen as well but we’ve really taken a cautious approach. This week is another step. We’ll just worry about trying to beat North.”