Socceroos: Milicic has fond memories of WA and backs Perth match

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Tony Abbott to sack ministers for backgrounding? Not bloody likely!

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China stockmarket: why fears of a collapse are overblown

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Murray Goulburn says farmer payout 'affordable', sales drop 1.5 per cent

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Productivity Commission's mostly sound industrial relations advice falls short on public sector pay

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Socceroos: Milicic has fond memories of WA and backs Perth match

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To truly be Australia’s team, a team has to play all over the country.

The Baggy Greens play in all mainland states during a five Test series in their own backyard, but their travel diary is matched by few others.

The Socceroos are arguably the only team aside from the cricketers that really can claim to be representing a sport that is popular throughout the entire nation. But they are acutely aware that they need to appear more often outside of their eastern seaboard strongholds in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Hence their first trip to Western Australia in a decade this week when they take on Bangladesh in a World Cup qualifier at Perth Glory’s neat, trim, 20,000 capacity nib Stadium on Thursday evenng.

Its a good move; the Western Australians, along with fans in Adelaide, missed out during the Asian Cup, and, according to FFA officials, have responded well. Over 17,000 tickets have been sold and the remainder are expected to go in the next few days, ensuring a sell out and a hostile environment for the visiting Bangladeshis.

Socceroo assistant coach Ante Milicic has fond memories of Perth from his time as a player. Although the ex international striker spent the bulk of his career in his native Sydney, along with spells in Brisbane and Newcastle as well as in Europe,  Milicic made quite a splash in WA on his brief visits there.

He scored the only goal of the game _ and won the Marston Medal for best on ground _ when Sydney Olympic defeated Perth Glory in the 2002 NSL Grand Final, and recalls a match seven years before that when the nascent Glory took on Italian side Sampdoria in an exhibition game.

“Myself and Kimon Taliadoros (ex Socceroo frontman and now Football Federation Victoria  president)  got called up as guest players for that match. I was staying in the same hotel as Sampdoria, and got all kitted out with the gear after, ” he reminisced at a training session the national team coaches hosted with several WA youngsters at the match venue on Sunday afternoon.

“Its a great opportunity for the Perth public to come out. We really want to get around the whole country. We didn’t have the chance during the Asian Cup, but the opportutnity now is for  the whole country to see the squad, the way its developing and coming forward with the young players.

“The pitch and the surface is great. This is what you need at international level. The pitch and the facilities, the grandstand here is great and the crowd will be close to the pitch. These are the kind of venues that the Socceroos enjoy playing at.”

Milicic said there had been no overnight reports of injuries, and that while Austalia would go into the game against Bangladesh as hot favourites, they certainly would not underestimate their opponents.

“We respect every opponent and Bangladesh is no different. We have chosen a full strength side from everyone who is available. We have done our homework, we know what to expect. “

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Tony Abbott to sack ministers for backgrounding? Not bloody likely!

Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos. Photo: Cole BennettsSinodinos slams ‘political sabotage’
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The call from a respected senior Liberal, Arthur Sinodinos, ostensibly for Tony Abbott to sack cabinet ministers for backgrounding against Joe Hockey and Abbott himself, seems extraordinarily decisive, as far as it goes. But let’s be honest, it is not going anywhere.

Plainly, this a rhetorical rather than a literal call for the Prime Minister to use his most severe rebuke.

The call by press release is in fact a symptom masquerading as a remedy, and is itself, part of the gathering symphony of dysfunction now drowning out the government’s official message of “jobs, growth, and community safety”.

It barely requires stating. The very essence of backgrounding is that it is anonymous. It is both unnamed, and unprovable. A minister suspected of backgrounding would never admit to it, and a journalist/beneficiary of said leaks would never give up their source. The wiley Sinodinos knows this, and thus knows that no ministers could or will be sacked. Even more, the ex-chief of staff for John Howard knows that in the fractious condition the government and its leadership now find themselves, the percussive dismissal of a senior minister or ministers for alleged “disloyalty” would almost certainly prompt a crisis of its own resulting in internal collapse.

Frankly put, Sinodinos knows Abbott is in no position to sack anyone.

Which is not to say there isn’t some frustration evident in Sinodinos’s words, given his Liberal Party is fighting a do-or-die byelection in the WA seat of Canning.

Party loyalists are concerned that talk of losing, or, of the serious ramifications of a violent anti-government swing, increases the danger of self-fulifilling prophesies.

Yet politics being what it is, Canberra watchers are caught somewhere between bemused and befuddled by the Sinodinos snipe.

No blind adherent of the current leadership, nor particularly of Abbott’s uber-powerful chief of staff Peta Credlin, Sinodinos is widely thought to be a supporter of the popular alternative to Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull in turn would be the big winner of a change of leadership – a change that is more likely, not less, if Canning goes bad.

All of which has some conspiracy-minded theorists wondering what Sinodinos is doing. On the face of it, he is strafing leakers. Yet he knows they will not be identified and then ejected.

Which leaves us contemplating the sub-surface meanings. First, that any public attack on “backgrounding” inevitably draws attention to that backgrounding and thus kicks the story along for another day at least. Even assuming this was not his primary purpose, it is an outcome of which the experienced Sinodinos would have been well aware.

Second, that pro-Turnbull forces are worried that in a final desperate play, Credlin might advocate throwing Hockey overboard, to forestall her own removal, and they want to expose that option and thus kill it off.

Or third, that previous assumptions of allegiances within the NSW Liberal caucus, are out of date and that Turnbull may have lost supporters, such as Sinodinos himself, to the up-and-coming Scott Morrison.

Either way, it is a curious contribution.

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China stockmarket: why fears of a collapse are overblown

A total collapse of the Chinese property market is unlikely, says Gavekal’s China research director Andrew Baston.China’s allegedly imminent recession has become a popular topic recently after the plunges of its equity markets and the devaluation of the renminbi currency sent tremors through the international investor community, but a leading economic researcher says most of these fears are overblown.
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While there are many legitimate concerns about China’s inevitable slowdown, Gavekal’s China research director Andrew Baston says, fears China is teetering on the verge economic collapse are misguided.

“Such fears are exaggerated; China’s economy is not collapsing. But it is slowing,” Mr Baston said in a research note.

The note details how investors are rightfully concerned about the rising domestic debt, the government’s recent failures to steer the economy coupled with the slow down in investment as well as in heavy industry and commodity sectors, but ultimately concluded an economic collapse was unlikely.

With construction stagnating and investment at its weakest in 10 years, Mr Baston said Beijing deploying looser monetary policies would have limited impact so the slowdown was inevitable.

But this looser monetary policy will be hard to implement because the level of domestic debt is so high.

“With total debt at 250% of GDP, China today is far more leveraged than in 2009 when Beijing last launched a major monetary expansion. Today, such a debt-fueled stimulus program is out of the question, given the high starting point. As things stand, the combination of very high total debt plus deteriorating economic growth will push up the level of bad debt,” Mr Baston said.

However there were four commonly discussed issues where Mr Baston said fears of economic fragility are excessive. 1. Renminbi devaluation is not part of a currency war

The incident that caused the tides of concern to begin to rise was the devaluation of the renminbi in early August.

The renminbi fell 3 per cent after the People’s Bank of China lowered its trading midpoint and investors are concerned it could have another 5 per cent or so to fall.

This sparked concerns the PBoC was not just preparing for lower domestic growth but potentially positioning for a currency war that would slash billions from global budgets, particularly throughout Asia and commodity driven economies such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

However, Mr Baston said the fear the devaluation would launch a foreign debt crisis were overblown.

“China is well insulated from the sort of foreign currency debt crisis that has struck other emerging markets in recent decades,” Mr Baston said. 2. Market volatility won’t trigger a broader meltdown

The Shanghai stock market experienced significant plunges last week that brought the total value lost since the volatility began in June to almost 45 per cent.

While investors and economics remain riveted by the market’s tumultuous trading, Mr Baston said the sell-offs impact on the broader economy would be limited, as equities make up no more than 5 per cent of household wealth.

“Although a continued slump from current levels would generate plenty of hyperbolic headlines about a crashing China, even a further sell-off would have a limited spillover effect on the real economy,” Mr Baston said, adding the Chinese banking system had little exposure to the stock market volatility.

“So, although wealth management products linked to the stock market may sustain big losses, and while it is possible some brokers could fail, it is highly unlikely that a further slump in equities will trigger a systemic crisis.” 3. Deep collapse of property prices unlikely

While Chinese household equity exposure may be low, property investment is far more common and the local appetite for property has pushed prices to dizzying heights.

Mr Baston said the widely held view that the Chinese property market would collapse under the weight of an enormous speculative bubble fuelling high prices was out of step with the two key drivers of the housing price rise: expanding urban population and rising incomes, both of which are set to continue.

“That does not mean everything in the garden is rosey: these fundamentals indicate that housing demand is close to its peak, and that the sector has gone from being a growth driver to a drag on growth, a shift with huge knock-on effects for the rest of the economy,” Mr Baston said.

“But the maturation and decline of housing demand is a very different thing from the unwinding of a massive speculative bubble.”

In the last six months, the Chinese government have lowered interest rates and relaxing regulations that operated as restrictions to property purchasing to support continued buying and still has plenty of room for further cuts or policy changes. 4. Unemployment surge to be limited

A slowing economy is rarely good news for unemployment numbers and there are widespread concerns unemployment in China could trigger tranches of newly unemployed workers, which would cause a significant blow to already weak consumer demand.

But Mr Baston said the fact the major slowdowns had occurred in state-owned enterprises, such as heavy industrial and commodity management sectors, meant a record waves of redundancies were unlikely as these companies had far less flexibility to cut jobs.

“Even in the private sector, firms have balked at making mass lay-offs, with mining companies choosing instead to reduce working hours and award employees more holiday.”

Mr Baston said while work hours and wages had declined, unemployment would remain relatively stable.

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Murray Goulburn says farmer payout ‘affordable’, sales drop 1.5 per cent

“We’re paying our farmers… what we can afford to pay them, and this year [FY2015] it was $6 plus net profit after tax of $21 million.”: Murray Goulburn’s managing director Gary Helou. Photo: Jason SouthAustralia’s biggest dairy processor, Murray Goulburn, has warned farmers of possible milk price cuts this season amid a souring environment for global dairy markets.
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The co-operative’s managing director, Gary Helou, reiterated its previous guidance of $6.05 a kilogram milk solids for this season on Monday. But he warned that could slide to $5.60-$5.90 a kilogram if global prices for key dairy commodities did not improve as expected.

“Murray Goulburn will continue to monitor the situation closely and will update the market as soon as circumstances materially change,” the co-operative said in a statement.

Murray Goulburn’s $6.05 a kilogram price forecast formed a key part of the listing of its non-voting trust on the ASX last month. The trust’s dividend is tied to the milk price, therefore if the milk price tumbles, so does the investor payout.

The world’s biggest dairy exporter, Fonterra, told Fairfax Media last week Australian farmers were being paid too much for their milk. Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings said the Australian farm gate price did not reflect the global dairy rout and called for an “honest debate about what is being earned in the market”. Price defended

Murray Goulburn set the farm gate price in June, opening the season with $5.60 a kilogram milk solids, which Fonterra and others have matched.

Mr Helou defended the price and the co-operative’s $6.05 forecast – which if realised will be the first time farmers have been paid more than $6 a kilogram of milk solids for the three years straight.

“We’re paying our farmers … what we can afford to pay them and this year [2014-15] it was $6 plus net profit after tax of $21 million,” he said.

“Our gearing is conservative at 14 per cent, pre IPO, which is comfortable given this business is in an investment cycle.”

At midday, Murray Goulburn’s shares had jumped 5.8 per cent to $1.96.

While most dairy processors have opened with what they say is a “strong” price at $5.60 a kilogram, dairy farmers are still hoping for step ups, or price increases throughout the season. Costs of production

Australian Dairy Farmers president Noel Campbell told Fairfax Media last month that most farmers operated on a $5 to $5.50 a kilogram milk price to cover their costs of production.

“As a dairy farmer, we have got to be careful in the next 12 months as to how we operate our business,” Mr Campbell said.

“There isn’t much of a buffer there. What happens in the next 12 months in respect to international prices will dictate if there is any possibility of step ups for the year.”

In New Zealand – where Fonterra has a monopoly and up to 95 per cent of its total milk production is exported – the farm gate price has plummeted from an average of $NZ8.65 ($7.81) to $NZ3.85 in the past two seasons.

At the same time, whole milk powder prices have dived from $US4999 ($6957) to $US1856 a tonne, while skim milk powder has plunged from $US4780 to $US1521 a tonne, according to Global Dairy Trade figures. Russian trade sanctions and weakening demand from China has led to an oversupply of dairy products on global markets. Shift in focus

Mr Helou said Murray Goulburn was “achieving strong growth in the face of a strong decline” in commodity prices. He said this was because the co-operative was shifting away from producing commodity products, which now account for about 30 per cent of its total production, and had not sold anything on the Global Dairy Trade auction since 2013.

Murray Goulburn’s revenue fell 1.5 per cent for the 12 months to June 30 to $2.87 billion. Mr Helou said growth in dairy foods, such as UHT, consumer cheeses and fresh milk, partially offset a decline in commodity prices, with sales rising 29 per cent. Its nutritionals business, which includes infant formula, meanwhile surged 34 per cent.

The company spent more than $120 million in the past year upgrading its factories so they could produce more value-add consumer products and less bulk goods.

“All our dairy foods assets, UHT, fresh milk, cheese, consumer powders, nutritionals are flat chat producing value add to capacity, as well as disciplined cost control in the business. That leads to the $6.05 forecast for this year.”

Murray Goulburn’s net profit for the year, although ahead of its prospectus estimates, fell 27.5 per cent to $21.2 million. Lift expected

Mr Helou predicted global dairy prices to lift in the year ahead, as big exporting countries New Zealand and the US reduced supply.

“We think the market has bottomed,” he said, adding that he expected a modest lift in the next six months.

“As well as that, foreign exchange has worked in our favour. It’s dropped to a lot lower than expected.”

Murray Goulburn will pay its farmer shareholders a dividend of 9¢ a share, a 12.5 per cent increase on 2014. Unit holders in its listed trust will not be eligible for the payment.

“If declared, the distribution to unit holders with respect to the first half of FY16 is expected to be paid in March 2016,” the company said.

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Productivity Commission’s mostly sound industrial relations advice falls short on public sector pay

Productivity Commission chairman Peter Harris launches the draft report on industrial relations last month. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen “The Productivity Commission could well ask Henry Ergas (pictured) if he has the intellectual decency to correct the false claims he has made against it.” Photo: Nic Walker
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“The development of policy is never helped by the likes of Don Argus (pictured) throwing dead cats into the ring.” Photo: Arsineh Houspian

The Public Sector Informant: latest issue

Two independent, expert and thorough reports on Australian industrial relations, one under the last government and one under the present one, have come to broadly the same conclusions: that the country’s labour market performance and flexibility are relatively good and that, while some alterations to federal laws are warranted, wholesale changes are not.

As with the one to the previous government, the Productivity Commission’s draft report, released last month, has been greeted with squeals of protest from those who seem to think Australia’s economic salvation requires replacing existing laws with ones allowing an expansion of management powers and significant reductions in pay for those now on minimum rates.

Such protests sit uncomfortably with the generally accepted view of the well informed that, in the words of the commission: “there is little robust evidence that the different variants of workplace relations systems over the last 20 years have had detectable effects on measured economy-wide productivity”; andevidence from diverse sources, including the Employment Department, “could not show that the current minimum wage process delivered significant negative employment outcomes”. Indeed, the commission’s head, Peter Harris, is happy to quote The Economist magazine, saying international debate about minimum wages is “now largely between those saying that there are small negative effects and those who say that there are none at all”.

More than this, the protestations of some in the ranks of the bitterly disappointed don’t stack up in their own terms.

Let’s start with the Murdoch correspondent, Henry Ergas. He bases his “analysis” on an allegation that the commission’s report “opens with the claim that there is a serious imbalance between the bargaining power of employees … and employers”. The report does no such thing. Ergas’s claim is just not true; he’s made it up. The commission says: “Without regulation, employees are likely to have much less bargaining power than employers.””While there are hot spots … [there is] a reasonable balance between the relative power of the parties.””Bargaining is not always in the hands of employers.”

The commission is absolutely right. In most instances, the balance between employers and employees is probably reasonable but relative power can vary between industries and firms. Cleaners will generally be in a weaker position than workers in, say, coal-fired power stations, who are able to dramatically affect electricity supply. If Ergas has any doubts about that, he should try his hand for a couple of months at tidying up hotel rooms and then shovelling coal into power station furnaces – if he thinks he’s up to it, of course.

Anyway, after asserting the commission said something it didn’t, Ergas has the front to accuse it of “making mistakes” and questioning if it has the “intellectual honesty” to correct them. The commission could well ask Ergas if he has the intellectual decency to correct the false claims he has made against it. There’s no need, really, for it can take comfort that, on many matters, there’s a certain reassurance in being on the other side of the fence from any Ergasian stance.

Next comes Don Argus. He’s been a chairman of BHP Billiton and chief executive of the National Australia Bank. He’s quite properly called for a “rational debate” about industrial relations. Then he cruels his pitch by saying “if we don’t, we will finish up like Greece”.

It’s hard to know what Argus means. If he’s saying that industrial relations in Australia are headed in the direction of Greece’s, that’s rubbish. And it’s not a great way to try to contribute to a rational debate about anything.

The causes of Greece’s problems are complicated, some going back to the abuse of public sector employment shortly after the country shook itself free from the Ottoman empire in the 19th century and which has endured over the decades since. Australia has avoided these and other perils, like governments of colonels, that have landed Greece in its present predicament. Australia satisfies none of the preconditions necessary to turn itself into another Greece and it’s irresponsible to suggest it’s a realistic possibility.

Australia’s labour market is far freer than Greece’s and there’s no significant risk of Australia’s seizing up. It’s worth noting, however, that in Europe the Greek labour market is more flexible than those in France, Norway and Germany, and a little behind Italy’s. Working hours in Greece are among the highest in the OECD and higher than in Australia.

The problems of the Greek economy are irrelevant to industrial relations in Australia. The development of policy is never helped by the likes of Argus throwing dead cats into the ring. That’s no way to conduct an argument. The former businessman needs to lift his game or he’ll be left with no standing in the debate that the Productivity Commission wants on its report.

The prospects for that debate also have been damaged by the Labor Party and a few of its unions, which, quite without justification, have seized on the commission’s proposals about penalty rates and individual employment contracts to raise the political spectre of WorkChoices. In turn, this has sent shivers down the spines of Tony Abbott and his ministers as they fumble with their dot-point briefing notes instructing them to say “this is a report to government, not a report from the government”.

It looks as if the gradualist recommendations from the commission may well run into some heavy weather from a government presently as immobilised as a possum in a spotlight.

The good thing is that the commission’s draft report is sound. It has absorbed a whole range of opinions it has received, its analysis is rigorous and balanced, and it is now seeking comments on what it has laid on the table before issuing a final document.

Surprisingly, the commission’s report is far less convincing on bargaining in the public sector. This is its backyard. While it avoids comment on the current pay round in the Commonwealth, it says it “seeks to identify a preferred approach to future public service workplace arrangements”. It does not do so to any significant extent.

The report makes a good start saying “there are fundamental impracticalities in strongly linking pay and productivity in the public sector”. That’s right and, in most Commonwealth agencies, productivity simply can’t be measured.

The report goes on to say that, in any event, there “are several general concerns associated with directly linking pay to increases in productivity”. That’s right, too. While in an economy-wide sense it’s important to maintain a reasonable relationship between wages and productivity, linking pay and productivity increases at the firm or enterprise level is economic lunacy. Among other things, it rewards unproductive industries and their staff, and puts productive ones at a disadvantage because they will be less able to keep staff remuneration competitive; it may even threaten the viability of critical firms. It creates incentives to build up restrictive practices able to be used in bargaining and it encourages a union/staff view that no improvement can be made without a pay increase, a horrifying consequence for those keen to expand management powers.

The Productivity Commission says that reducing conditions of employment or longer hours have nothing to do with productivity and that “paying an employee to work more could harm” it. Exactly so. Public service agencies now engaged in such folly should give it away.

So the commission has made the federal government’s IR bargaining guidelines mandating a link between pay and productivity look as foolish as they deserve to be.

Yet, having successfully lined up the ducks on public sector bargaining, the commission’s analysis falls away to the extent that it makes no recommendations about it. The promised “preferred approach” is not identified.

A problem may be that the commission seems to be unaware of what is still the most sensible, convincing and intellectually rigorous document on public service remuneration: the early 1950s Priestley royal commission report in Britain. Over the past 60 years, there’s been nothing to surpass this report and the Productivity Commission should now get onto it. There should be a copy in the Public Service Commission’s library, where it could be either gathering dust or placed on an index prohibitorum of documents banned because they are inconsistent with prevailing ideology and dangerous because their logic is irrefutable.

Priestley thought pay and conditions in the public service should be such that “the interests of the community in general, of those responsible for administering the civil service and the individual civil servants themselves should be kept in balance”. Priestley says “a correct balance will be achieved only if the primary principle of civil service pay is fair comparison with the current remuneration of outside staffs employed on broadly comparable work”.

Such an approach, Priestley asserts, “looks after the ordinary citizens’ interests as a taxpayer” because if public servants are paid “what other responsible employers pay for comparable work, the citizen cannot reasonably complain that he is being exploited”. Similarly, Priestley says that as the public “casts a jealous eye on public expenditure” an official “is entitled to some guarantee that his just deserts will not be sacrificed to political expediency”.

Priestley also recommended that account be taken of internal relativities, both horizontal and vertical, including where outside work comparisons could not readily be made.

Both of these principles, designed to achieve a proper balance of competing interests and promote the efficiency and productivity of the public service by contributing to effective recruitment and motivation, have been thoroughly trashed in the Australian Public Service and wider Commonwealth employment. It’s more than time for these principles to be brought back and that’s what the Productivity Commission should be recommending.

When the Finance Department’s secretary, Jane Halton, can describe working an extra six minutes a day and removing the Christmas shutdown as “productivity measures” and try in part to justify a pay increase for her staff on the basis of moving into a flash new office, citizens can know that pay and conditions bargaining in the APS has hit rock bottom.

Adopting the Priestley principles would bring an end to such nonsense. It would enable the better realisation via a single enterprise bargain of the “One APS”, whose promotion always now rings hollow. It would allow the gradual evening-up of pay disparities between agencies that have arisen for no reasons other than chance. It would save tens of millions of dollars now wasted in the pointless transaction costs of agency-based bargaining. And it would bring better order to the mish-mash of classifications and levels across the public service now bedevilling its effective management.

The government need not wait for the Productivity Commission to do all these things. Their merits speak for themselves and they should be done now. As that’s unlikely, the commission’s final report must take up the cudgels.

Paddy Gourley is a former senior public servant. [email protected]上海夜网speed上海夜网m.au

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The gods of rugby heaven: The openside flankers

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Schalk Burger. Photo: Getty Images

Schalk Burger (South Africa)

Dynamic, robust and physical … three words that define Schalk Burger.

Although many who have played against the Springbok openside flanker may have other words to describe the two-times South African rugby player of the year recipient.

Since his 2003 debut for the Springboks against Georgia in the World Cup that was held in Australia, Burger has established himself as one of the major benchmark flankers in the world game.

That was due in a large to his energetic and high work-rate that in his early days often saw him run foul of the referee. Now 32, Burger has 79 Test caps to his name.

Thierry Dusautoir. Photo: Getty Images

Thierry Dusautoir (France)

A strong ball carrier, Thierry Dusautoir, now 33, was born in Abidjan on the Ivory Coast.

The son of a French father and Ivorian mother, he began rugby at age 16 after a childhood in which his favourite sport was judo.

He debuted for France in a Test against Romania on June 17, 2006. The 75-capped player is arguably best known for his try against the All Blacks in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final at Cardiff in which he made 38 tackles.

Dusautoir also captained France to the 2011 Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand in which he scored France’s only try in the 47th minute.

Michael Jones. Photo: Simon Alekna

Michael Jones (New Zealand)

So talented was Michael Jones, former All Blacks coach John Hart called him “almost the perfect rugby player”.

While his international debut was for Western Samoa in 1986, Jones – now 50 and nicknamed the ‘Ice Man’ because he so often needed ice packs for injuries – first played for New Zealand in the 1987 World Cup, playing four games.

While early in his career he was a brilliant openside flanker, scoring 13 international tries, he moved to the blindside when speed and injuries caught up with him.

His last Test was against Australia at the end of 1989 and in late 1999 he retired.

Richie McCaw. Photo: Getty Images

Richie McCaw (New Zealand)

The current All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw, 34, earned his 142nd Test cap against Australia in Auckland in August, a stand-alone record in world rugby.

Thought of by many as the greatest openside flanker of all time, McCaw is a veritable master at the breakdown.

He also has incredible vision and ability to read a referee’s interpretation of the law that often frustrates the opposition.

McCaw played his first Test in 2001 against Ireland in the All Blacks’ spring tour. After his World Cup debut in 2003, he has led the All Blacks since 2006 and through the 2007 and 2011 World Cups.

George Smith. Photo: Simon Alekna

George Smith (Australia)

George Smith, 35, is still playing professional rugby in a career that began with his debut for the Brumbies in 2000. He recently signed with London club Wasps after two seasons at Lyon in France.

Smith played at the Brumbies for 12 years over two spells – from 2000 to 2010 and then in 2013 when he returned after playing for Toulon in France and Suntory in Japan.

His Test career also kicked off in 2000 against France and led to him earning 111 caps, his last on July 6, 2013, against the British and Irish Lions.

A breakdown wizard, he was long considered the Wallabies’ most valued player, also due to his ability to adapt to numerous positions.

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Shane Watson savours Australia return after most of Ashes on sidelines

Returning Australian all-rounder Shane Watson has expressed his delight at earning selection for the one-day series against England after being overlooked for most of the Ashes.
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Watson has kept a reclusive public profile since being dropped after the first Ashes Test. Since then, he had periodically released videos documenting how he was coping being outside Australia’s first-choice team while still having to remain with the squad in England.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, one after us, the Australian team, losing the Ashes, but also not really playing a part, apart from the first Test here in Cardiff, in which unfortunately I didn’t score enough runs and perform well enough to stay in the side, said Watson, who until the second Test of the Ashes was a stalwart for Australia in all formats.

“The last time we played a game for the limited-overs side was the World Cup final, so we’re excited to get back out there . . . I really can’t wait to be able to get out there and have some fun,” said Watson, 34, to unscriptd上海夜网m.

“Fingers crossed it goes well well over the next couple of weeks in England, we’re able to win the one-day series, and hopefully personally I am able to put in a good performances as well. I can’t wait,” he said.

Marcus Stoinis, who is set to make his international debut in Monday night’s Twenty20 fixture against England, has not played in the Big Bash League since February 2014, having missed all of last season’s tournament due to injury. He was an unused member of Delhi’s squad in this year’s IPL.

“I played in the under-19 World Cup with Stoinis in Malaysia in 2008 . . . and he’s certainly come a long way. He’s improved every year,” said captain Steve Smith.

“He’s thrown up good performances first of all for WA then moving over to Victoria it was a big move for him. He’s put the numbers on the board and thoroughly deserves an opportunity here tomorrow.”

Former captain George Bailey, spinner Ashton Agar, batsman Joe Burns and fast-bowler James Pattinson were the players to miss selection for the match.

Smith also confirmed Queensland leg-spinner Cameron Boyce, selected only in the Twenty20 squad, would play on Monday, in what will be his fifth match for Australia since debuting late last year.

“There’s a T20 world cup coming up in not too long, so we need these guys to play as much as they can. He performed really well for us in our one-off T20 we played in the UAE [against Pakistan] and I’m sure he’s looking forward to playing out here tomorrow.”

“He’s got a lot of skill, got a lot of variation. It’s going to be a good test for him bowling out here, with the short, straight boundaries and the short boundary on one side. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

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Miners lose edge as NSW government balances profits against damage before approvals

The NSW government has put mining back to a level planning field. Photo: Glenn Hunt Centennial Mine’s operations in the Blue Mountains. Photo: supplied
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The Baird government has amended its mining policy process to give equal billing to a project’s economic, environmental and social impacts when determining approval in a move likely to anger the mining industry.

The plan to change the mining State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to end the priority being given to economic factors is understood to have won “broad support” when it went to cabinet on Friday.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes said in a statement on Monday that the community had been overwhelmingly in favour of the change.

“Mining plays an important role in the NSW economy, however, we must ensure that our policies reflect the importance of balance in assessing the likely impacts of mining developments,” Mr Stokes said.

“A crucial pillar of our planning system is that decision makers consider environmental impacts on both the natural and built environments, and social and economic impacts in their assessment of development applications,” he said.

The impact of the amended policy, which comes into force on Wednesday, may be on show within days. The Planning Assessment Commission will hold additional public hearings triggered by the revised SEPP for the Springvale coal mine near Lithgow on Thursday and next Monday for Rio Tinto’s Mt Thorley Warkworth mine near Bulga in the Hunter Valley.

The mining sector has previously complained that the removal of economic priority being given to new mines – introduced two years ago – would damage an industry already struggling with poor commodity prices and large-scale job losses.

The government received more than 2400 submissions, 98 per cent of which supported the proposal to remove a provision that had made the significance of the mineral resource “the principal consideration” when determining projects.

‘Real test’

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW welcomed the move to change the elements of the mining SEPP that were introduced by former Resources Minister Chris Hartcher in 2013.

“Premier Mike Baird and Planning Minister Rob Stokes deserve credit for acknowledging that the Hartcher amendments were unacceptable because they put industry interests ahead of local communities and the environment,” Kate Smolksi, the council’s chief executive, said.

Ms Smolski said the SEPP change had been introduced by the O’Farrell government to allow mining giant Rio Tinto to make another application to expand its open-cut coal mine after its plan had been rejected by the Land and Environment Court.

“While we welcome today’s decision, it only takes us back to where we were two years ago, when the community was expressing many substantial concerns about the approval and assessment process for mining projects,” she said.

“The real test will be whether or not the Planning Assessment Commission [PAC] takes this change into account when determining the Warkworth Mt Thorley mine and other mining projects.”

Miners, Greens

Stephen Galilee, chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council, said his organisation had always backed a balanced approach to the assessment of new mining projects.

“Our concern with the proposed changes was that state and regional economic factors would no longer be mandatory factors for consideration in the assessment process,” Mr Galilee said, adding that Mr Stokes has said he will ensure such issues will be examined in PAC determinations.

A spokesman for Rio Tinto echoed such concerns.

“Our applications to continue mining at Mount Thorley Warkworth have been assessed against contemporary environmental, social and economic policies and requirements,” the spokesman said. “These assessments indicate the benefits of the proposals, including continued employment for 1300 people, significantly outweigh the impacts.”

“This is supported by the Department of Planning and Environment which has written to the [PAC] and advised they are satisfied that the benefits outweigh the impacts, after the change to the Mining SEPP, and recommend that the project is in the public interest and should be approved,” he said.

Jeremy Buckingham, the Greens mining spokesman, said the SEPP should never have been altered in the first place.

“We’d like the merits appeals brought back and teeth be given to the Strategic Regional Land-use Policy,” Mr Buckingham said, adding battles over major projects will continue until appropriate areas are designated as “no go zones” for coal and coal seam gas operations.

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Newcastle missing person: Strike Force Retractor formed to find Christopher Daunt

Christopher DauntCHRISTOPHER Daunt was a well respected young builder with close and loving ties to his family and friends when he disappeared halfway through a job five months ago.
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And that is what is frightening the hell out of his relatives and investigators.

A police strike force has been set up to investigate the suspicious disappearance of the 27-year-old Gateshead man, with one obvious line of inquiry centring around Mr Daunt being murdered.

He was last seen at a North Lambton address on Sunday, March 29, and was quickly reported missing by family.

‘‘It is concerning and being treated as suspicious becausehe has literally dropped off the face of the earth,’’ Lake Macquarie crime manager Detective Inspector Craig Davis said on Monday.

‘‘Here is a self-employed man who was there one minute and gone the next.’’

Mr Daunt was a builder who specialised in kitchens and was halfway through installing one in Lake Macquarie when he vanished.

His bank accounts have not been touched, there has been no activity on his mobile phone and no contact with his family or friends.

There is no evidence he had travelled interstate.

‘‘Obviously one of the lines of inquiry is that something sinister has happened,’’ Detective Inspector Davis said.

‘‘He may have taken some time out, but that is out of character and we have found no evidence of that.’’

Strike Force Retractor, comprising Lake Macquarie detectives, has been set up to look into the disappearance.

Mr Daunt is described as being Caucasian, about 180 centimetres tall, of thin build, brown hair and green eyes.

Mr Daunt’s family and friends have turned to social media to try to find him.

The Facebook page ‘‘Help us find Chris Daunt’’ was launched soon after his disappearance on March 29 and has attracted 2450 likes and been shared hundreds of times.

The posts record the family’s heartbreak as they hope Mr Daunt is ‘‘happy and some place warm’’ and share their disappointment that he did not reach out to his mum to wish her happy birthday.

‘‘Wherever he may be, he is always in our thoughts and prayers, and we cherish all the special times we had with him over the years,’’ the page says. ‘‘Not knowing is so difficult for us, and all we want is to have him home.’’

Anyone with information is urged to phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. .

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Two asylum seekers need hospital care after reports of self-harm

The Wickham Point immigration Detention Centre, 30 kilometres southeast of Darwin. Photo: Glenn CampbellAn Afghan man who is believed to have tried to take his own life has been returned to a West Australian detention centre after a week-long stay in a hospital.
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Another asylum seeker tried to commit suicide at Wickham Point Detention Centre on Sunday morning.

A fellow detainee said the Afghan man, believed to be Ali Jaffery, “cut his throat” at the Yongah​ Hill Detention Centre, north-west of Perth, on August 21.

A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said on August 21, a male detainee was transferred from Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre to hospital, where he received medical treatment.

The spokesman said the man was returned to Yongah Hill on August 28. They would not give any other information, saying it would be “inappropriate to discuss individual medical circumstances”.

The detainee said the man, who was in his late 20s, had been in the “mental health room” and didn’t mingle with anyone.

“There was too much blood,” the detainee said.

“I saw the blanket and his singlet … it was covered in blood. All of it was was red.

“There was blood in the front of the room.”

The detainee said others who had been inside the room saw both the bed and the floor were covered in blood.

He said such incidents of self-harm had become the norm at the centre.

“Every day someone tries to hang themselves,” he said.

“Whatever we do, nothing happens.”

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said the man’s visa had been cancelled, but he couldn’t be returned home because he was a refugee or awaiting a decision on his status.

Mr Rintoul said the man was yet another victim of the government’s detention regime.

“If an Australian citizen commits a crime, then they pay whatever penalty the court establishes and … they are considered to have paid their debt to society,” he said.

“But someone who is an asylum seeker or refugee, even if they have completed their sentence … they are subject to immigration detention on top.

“There is no excuse for indefinite detention; it is a recipe for mental illness and attempted suicide.”

Mr Rintoul said it was concerning that the man had been returned to the centre.

“He is back in the circumstances that is likely to mean he will try again [to harm himself].”

The latest incident follows the death of a young Afghan asylum seeker at the Yongah Hill Detention Centre just over four weeks ago.

Mohammad Nasim Najafi​ died on July 31 amid claims he had been denied medical treatment for two weeks despite complaining of heart trouble.

Mr Rintoul said an asylum seeker had also tried to commit suicide at 1.15am on Sunday at the Wickham Point Detention Centre.

A spokeswoman for the Department on Immigration and Border Protection said an incident had occurred at Wickham Point Detention Centre.

“The detainee involved is receiving appropriate medical and mental health support and care,” she said.  For help or information on mental health issues call Lifeline 131 114

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