Watts credits team for strong AFL form

Melbourne forward Jack Watts is crediting the team’s growing momentum for his strong start to the AFL season.

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Always a lightning rod for criticism when things go wrong with the Demons, the 2008 No.1 draft pick has impressed amid their 2-2 opening.

“I don’t think it’s really `clicked’ or anything like that,” he said of his own form.

“I’m probably doing all pretty similar things to what I’ve done in the past, but with a team (that) is starting to play a pretty good brand of footy.

“We’re averaging a lot more inside 50s, we’re getting more opportunities, so playing as a forward, law of averages would say you’re going to have a bit of an impact.”

Seven years after the Collingwood defence bullied him in his AFL debut, Watts kicked four goals last Sunday as Melbourne sent the Magpies lurching further into crisis.

It is also a far cry from the end of last season, when Watts was dropped.

Watts admits that omission was “a bit of a kick in the guts” and that it served as some motivation through the off-season.

“(But) once you get back into it, it’s long-gone,” he added.

Watts becomes eligible for free agency at the end of this season and he is sticking to his plan of leaving negotiations with the club for the time being.

But Watts strongly hinted on Wednesday that staying is the more appealing option.

“Have a good year, play a consistent year – that would be the main thing for me,” he said.

“But as you can see, it’s a pretty enjoyable place to be and the future’s looking pretty bright.”

The one blot on Melbourne’s opening month this season was the upset round-two loss to Essendon.

Even that came with a positive for Watts and his teammates.

“We went away from the way we play,” he said.

“That was a bit of a difference – reviewing that game, we were able to just recognise exactly what we did wrong.

“It was pretty clear to everyone, which was a good change.

“We weren’t wondering how it went wrong.”

He said attitude and intensity would be crucial for Melbourne when they start favourites on Sunday night in the Anzac eve clash against Richmond.

Like Collingwood, the Tigers are 1-3 and out of form.

By contrast, the Demons are bullish about what might be possible this season.

“We feel like every week, we have the game plan that stacks up,” he said.

“It’s just about bringing the attitude and intensity – it’s an enjoyable place to be.”

Utah wants somebody to think of the children, declares porn a public health hazard

In yet another case of The Simpsons in real life, the state of Utah has tabled a Bill declaring that pornography is a public health hazard.

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Sponsored by serial search history deleters, Todd Weiler and Curtis Oda, the Bill entitled “Concurrent resolution on the public health crisis“ attempts to tackle the big scary world of online pornography by stating, “This concurrent resolution of the Legislature and the Governor recognises that pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” 

 

 

The Bill digresses, “The Legislature and the Governor recognise the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation.”

Basically, porn bad, no porn good. 

But a public health crisis? I mean come on Utah, it’s not like you’ve been found to be the number one subscribers of online pornography in America or anything, oh wait. 

While the Free Speech Coalition, a lobby group for the “Adult Entertainment and Pleasure Products Industry”, aren’t impressed with this “hazard” label that the Utah state legislature have bandied around:

 

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— FreeSpeechCoalition (@FSCArmy) April 19, 2016

 

The anti-porn people over at Fight The New Drug  are so happy they’re celebrating with DISCOUNTED MERCH: 

We’re celebrating Utah declaring porn a public health crisis! Get 25% OFF our entire store!

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— FIGHTERS (@FightTheNewDrug) April 19, 2016

 

Alright Utah, You do you.

No Kidman land sale decision before poll

The $371 million sale of one of Australia’s largest pastoral properties to a Chinese-led consortium is on hold, at least until after the looming federal election.

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Treasurer Scott Morrison has signed an interim order preventing the sale of S. Kidman & Co for 90 days and has ordered an independent review into the deal.

China’s Dakang Australia Holdings wants to buy 80 per cent of the company while Australian Rural Capital Ltd is looking to take the rest, subject to approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

S. Kidman & Co runs almost 200,000 cattle over more than 100,000 square kilometres in South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The company’s holdings account for 1.3 per cent of Australia’s total land mass and 2.5 per cent of its agricultural land.

Mr Morrison says he must be “absolutely confident” that Australians have been given every opportunity to participate in the tender process.

“National interest considerations and proposed transactions should not and will not, on my watch, be rushed,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

But independent senator Glenn Lazarus urged the government to block the deal and criticised the treasurer for delaying a decision until after the likely July 2 poll.

“The people of Australia have had enough,” he said.

“The Turnbull government needs to facilitate the sale of key agricultural assets to Australian buyers to keep these valuable assets in Australian hands.”

A previous foreign bid to buy Kidman was last year knocked back on national interest grounds.

But other deals, raising public concerns, have been approved.

In February, Australia’s oldest and largest dairy farm in Tasmania was sold to Moon Lake Investments, in 2012 Queensland cotton farm Cubbie Station was snapped up by a Chinese-Japanese consortium and in 2009/10 more than 40 Liverpool Plains farms went to Shenhua Watermark Coal.

Despite Mr Morrison’s delay, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull played up the benefits of foreign investment.

“It’s very important that foreign investors, upon whom we depend for many of the jobs in Australia, see Australia as a safe place to invest in and a place where their applications will be considered carefully and methodically in accordance with the law,” he said.

But independent senator Nick Xenophon said the foreign investment process needed to be more transparent.

“Our national interest test, when it comes to our foreign investment laws, is so vague, so opaque and so inefficient that it needs to be reformed,” he said.

Kidman chairman John Crosby said the proposed sale would secure the company’s long-term future.

“We believe Dakang Australia and ARC will be good custodians of the business and this transaction will provide a solid platform for growth,” he said.

Tigers hopeful of Deledio AFL return

Hopes are rising at Richmond that star utility Brett Deledio might return for the crucial Anzac eve AFL match against Melbourne.

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Richmond have made another poor start to the season, with last Friday night’s horror trip to Perth against West Coast leaving them under mounting pressure with a 1-3 record.

Deledio, an All-Australian last year, has not played this season because of a quad muscle injury.

But he trained on Tuesday and the Tigers hoped he would make a strong case on Thursday for a surprise recall.

“Fingers crossed, he can train again tomorrow and get the okay from the medicos,” teammate Shaun Grigg told Triple M radio.

“I think that’s the only final hurdle … hopefully, we can get him back in.”

Grigg also confirmed Deledio was back kicking adult-sized footballs.

The nature of his leg injury meant their vice-captain at one stage was restricted to kicking smaller footballs designed for children.

“He was actually kicking the big football,” Grigg said.

Richmond also should regain their No.1 ruckman Ivan Maric, whose back injury has also prevented him playing in the senior side this season.

The Tigers are easing Maric back through the VFL.

“Ivan got through the VFL again, so I would say he will be up for selection.”

While injuries have not helped the Tigers, coach Damien Hardwick has plenty of headaches with how they are playing.

In particular, they have handballed too much early in the losses to Adelaide and West Coast.

The first quarter against Adelaide featured 31 kicks and 46 handballs while, last Friday night, they had 32 kicks and 28 handballs in the opening term against the Eagles.

“There’s no doubt it’s causing us a little bit of grief, especially early in games, with the amount of turnovers we’ve had,” Hardwick told the club website.

“We don’t want to be over-handballing for the sake of it.”

Startup takes diners into home kitchens

A new startup wants you to ditch the sommeliers and Michelin stars for a home-cooked meal in a stranger’s kitchen.

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WelcomeOver – a new service hoping to make itself the Airbnb of dining – lets users either host a meal in their home or dine at someone else’s, then rate and review their experience.

“Everybody thinks they are a mini-Masterchef and they want to show off their skills with friends and neighbours,” WelcomeOver co-founder Nelson Hidalgo told AAP.

“There is a social part of it as well… now it is a perfect vehicle to start talking again over the dinner table.”

Launched on Wednesday by three friends from Sydney’s eastern suburbs, the web-based service currently has 11 houses on offer, mainly in Sydney.

Hosts and diners can use the website for free, with hosts setting the price for the meal while WelcomeOver adds on a 20 per cent service fee which the diner will pay.

The founders of the business personally dine with hosts before approving them but Mr Hidalgo said the company was globally focused and would employ others when demand grew.

A little help from his relatives even allows the service to boast a meal at home across the Pacific in Guatemala.

“We work really closely with the host to know the process of the meal and what they are going to put on the menu,” he said.

The hosts all undergo police checks and quality control was key to the site, Mr Hidalgo said.

“We also see benefits for people who may have just moved to a new area and want to meet neighbours or others in the local community,” he said.

“We think it’s time to challenge the tradition of eating out.”

France to extend state of emergency to cover Euro 2016 tournament

“Faced with an event this big .

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.. which must take place in conditions of security and which at the same time should be a celebration … we have to ensure security,” he said on France Info radio.

“The state of emergency cannot be permanent, but on the occasion of these big events… we have decided to prolong.”

Euro 2016 starts June 10 and runs for a month. Some 2.5 million spectators are expected at 10 stadiums for 51 matches involving 24 teams at the tournament, which France is hosting. There will also be fan zones in other major cities.

The current state of emergency giving extra powers to police and security forces runs until May 26.

Valls said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve would propose the measure to other ministers later on Wednesday. It would then need to be voted in by Parliament.

Police have had extra powers to search homes, hold suspects and put people under house arrest since the Nov. 13 attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The initial move was popular in France, but human rights groups have expressed concern at two extensions that have taken place since.

The Stade de France national stadium north of the capital, which will host the opening match and the final, was the site of a suicide bombing on the night of the attacks. Other shootings and suicide bombings took place near the city centre at the Bataclan music venue and at cafes.

They were claimed by Islamic State, the ultra-hardline militant Islamist group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq.

Security arrangements for the competition are already stricter than usual. The Stade de France alone will be watched over by some 1,200 security officials. The average stadium security presence will be 900 strong, plus 200 volunteer ushers and 80 medics – about 30 percent more staffing than at normal matches.

CRS riot police and Gendarmerie divisions will also be deployed in the host towns.

(This version of the story was refiled to revise headline)

(Reporting by Andrew Callus and Sophie Louet; Editing by Michel Rose, Larry King)

WA ship fire exposes DFES weakness

A review of an-out-of control blaze aboard a bulk carrier at Australia’s largest port has exposed “limited” capability within Western Australia’s fire authority.

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Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators found there had been misunderstandings between crew and other agencies involved in tackling the fire in July, which lasted 12 hours until it burnt itself out.

The fire started in the engine room of the South Korean-owned Marigold while berthed in Port Hedland when fuel spilt from a pipe onto a hot generator surface.

Compounding the emergency, some fire doors were held open by wire and rope, and there were multiple failures within the ship’s fire suppression system.

Among the litany of other failures identified by the ATSB, the Marigold’s shipboard procedures for crew fire drills and safety training had not been properly implemented.

The ATSB also recommended that DFES take action to address its “limited professional firefighting capability” in Port Hedland and other regional ports, which it considered a safety issue.

As a result of the Port Hedland incident and one other ship fire in Fremantle, the state’s maritime transport emergency plan has been revised to include formal incident controller delegations.

In addition to this, DFES – which was issued with five recommendations on addressing shipboard fires – has begun new maritime firefighting training programs.

BHP Billiton, which was the operator of the ship’s berth, now provides international shore connections at its berths to improve water supply to a ship’s fire line in emergencies.

Tax budget no more than a plan: tax expert

The much-touted tax reform package in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s first budget looks like being no more than an outline for the future, some experts are predicting.

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Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand head of taxation Michael Croker believes a reforming budget doesn’t appear to be happening.

“We hope there is a plan for a plan,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Treasury is understood to have successfully convinced the Turnbull government to introduce a staged reduction in the corporate tax rate to 25 from 30 per cent now, similar to that undertaken by the UK government.

But Mr Croker concedes the treasurer has quite a balancing act in the May 3 budget with credit ratings agencies like Moody’s Investors Service breathing down his neck to come up with a credible path to a surplus, something that tax cuts won’t help.

Royal Bank of Canada head of Australian and New Zealand economics Su-Lin Ong agrees, particularly when the government will probably need to borrow a further $80 billion next year.

“We would not be surprised if the ratings agencies step up their rhetoric and signal some disappointment on budget night,” Ms Ong said in the bank’s budget preview released on Wednesday.

At the same time, the government’s budget mantra of jobs and growth could start to look a bit flaky heading into the likely July 2 election.

New figures suggest economic growth has lost momentum after its acceleration late last year, while demand for new workers continues to fade.

Westpac’s leading indicator of economic activity has slipped to its lowest level since 2011 and points to below average growth rates at least until the middle of the year.

The Department of Employment’s monthly vacancy report also showed job advertisements on the internet fell by a further 1.5 per cent in March.

These disappointing results came as Mr Morrison played down further talk that the budget will contain changes to superannuation taxation.

“People speculate about what’s in the budget every year, it’s common pastime here in Canberra,” the treasurer told Sydney’s 2GB radio about reports the government will cut the income threshold for more heavily-taxed contributions from $300,000 to $180,000.

The measure, that could raise $2 billion a year in net revenue, would trump Labor’s plan to reduce the threshold to $250,000.

Labor frontbencher Richard Marles was surprised by the government’s apparent backflip having said there was no need to do anything in this area when Labor announced its policy last year.

“The only thing you can be certain of is where we lead, they follow,” he told Sky News.

Financial Services Council boss Sally Loane hopes that this budget puts an end to the persistent tinkering of the super system

She says any changes to the tax treatment of super should do something to increase the sustainability of the system and get the bulk of Australians to a point where they can save for an adequate retirement.

“If they change tax levers to do that, we are supportive of that,” she told AAP.

Pro-uranium campaign backfires on Twitter

A resources industry campaign to promote uranium mining has been hijacked by Twitter users keen to voice their opposition to the practice.

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The Minerals Council of Australia launched the Uranium: Untapped Potential campaign on Wednesday, using social media content including videos and posters to highlight the benefits of uranium.

“The material is designed to showcase facts on the table about the uranium industry and the benefits it can provide to the Australian community, including the creation of hundreds of jobs,” the council’s executive director Daniel Zavattiero said in a statement.

It also aims to reassure the public on safety, while pointing out opportunities in nuclear medicine and the environmental upside of nuclear energy.

“A lifetime’s use of electricity from nuclear power plants produces the spent fuel equivalent of one soft drink can,” a poster says.

But the hashtag #UntappedPotential, which was trending by Wednesday afternoon, has attracted a large amount of undesired banter by environmentalists who have instead used it to express their concerns around the practice and advocate for alternative energy.

“#UntappedPotential for meltdowns and nuclear disaster?” said Twitter user Jemila Rushton.

“We need to better harness the #untappedpotential of solar power”, tweeted Upulie Divisekera.

“#UntappedPotential to put more communities at risk of nuclear waste dumps,” Ace Collective said on Twitter.

“We concur that uranium has much #untappedpotential – for disaster, cost and time blowouts and proliferation,” Anglesea After Coal said.

The Minerals Council is running the campaign on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

ASIC pledges to do more with new funds

The head of Australia’s corporate regulator says the watchdog will do more to police big business following a funding boost that includes a special prosecutor focused on the financial sector.

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The federal government has given the Australian Securities and Investments Commission $127.2 million in new funds to boost its surveillance and enforcement capabilities.

ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft said the regulator will use the boost to target problem areas including financial planning and life insurance, with the funds to increase technological capacity to identify and assess risks and misconduct.

“We’ve done a lot and now we will do more because we have more money and we have more power,” Mr Medcraft said Wednesday.

ASIC will gain a new commissioner with experience in “the prosecution of crimes in the financial services industry”, federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said, announcing the funding.

“We want an ASIC that leans forward and we want an ASIC that actually prosecutes and takes those matters up,” Mr Morrison said.

The changes at ASIC form the federal government’s response to a capability review of the watchdog, commenced by an expert panel in mid-2015, handed up in December and released on Wednesday.

Among its findings, the review found ASIC needed additional support to be “fit for the future” and that material gaps existed in areas including governance, data infrastructure and IT systems.

ASIC has faced criticism of its prosecution record and its handling of recent financial sector scandals, and the new funding came as the federal government fended off calls from Labor for a royal commission into the banking sector.

Mr Medcraft defended the corporate watchdog, saying its recent move to start Federal Court proceedings against Westpac and ANZ for alleged manipulation of a key interest rate showed the regulator was serious about its job.

“There is a tough cop on the beat, and I think I’ve demonstrated that pretty recently, that I’m willing, we are willing to take any one on, no matter how big you are,” he said.

ASIC’s $312 million budget will rise by 10.6 per cent with the new funds, to $331.8 million annually over the next four years.

Staff numbers at the regulator will grow by around 150, taking the workforce to 1,850.

The Australian Bankers’ Association backed the move to strengthen ASIC, saying “a well-resourced regulator keeps the industry accountable” but the lobby group cautioned against any action that may have “unintended consequences” or impact on product innovation or consumer choice.

Under the package announced on Wednesday, the government will invest $61.1 million to enhance ASIC’s data analytics and surveillance capabilities, and data management systems.

ASIC will also receive $57 million for increased surveillance and enforcement in the areas including financial advice, responsible lending and life insurance.

Banks will meet the cost of the additional funds under a user-pays model to be introduced in the second half of 2017.

Mr Medcraft said the user-pays model would make the system more resilient.

The ASIC chairman’s five-year term – which was due to expire mid-May – has now been extended for 18 months.