Footy brawl victim sues league

SOURCE: The Standard
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A WARRNAMBOOL man allegedly suffering ongoing injury after being punched and stomped on during a grand final crowd brawl is suing the Mininera and District Football League.

It is believed to be one of the first cases where a spectator has taken legal action against a league over a violent incident.

Michael Keilar, aged in his 30s, has launched proceedings seeking compensation for loss of earnings and pain and suffering.

A writ was mailed to league officials last week and the case is expected to go to a court hearing early next year.

Solicitor, Creon Coolahan of Stringer Clark, told The Standard his client was a former player in the league and had taken his wife and two young children to watch the final at Mininera oval in September 2011.

The 2011 MDFL grand final crowd at Mininera Oval, where a man was hurt in a brawl and is now suing the league.

When a spectator brawl started behind goal posts during the seniors match, Mr Keilar was concerned for the safety of his children and went looking for them.

“He was coward-hit from behind and his right leg was stomped on while he lay unconscious,” Mr Coolahan said.“Later when he was taken to Ararat Hospital he was diagnosed with two fractures in his leg.

“As a result of the serious nature of his injuries he was laid off work for six months while recovering.

“He has recently had to find lighter work and is likely to have continued problems with his leg for the rest of his life.”

Neither the league nor AFL Country Victoria would comment on Wednesday.

Mr Coolahan said he was not aware of any similar claims that had been lodged against a football league.

“This is a wake-up call to football administrators who have a duty of care to patrons attending events,” he said.

“Mr Keilar was hit from behind while simply trying to protect his children from harm.

“It was a disgraceful scene and reflected poorly on the game’s organisers at the time.

“The league had a duty of care towards spectators that they failed to honour and my client was left to pick up the pieces.

“You should be able to attend a game of footy with your family and not wind up in hospital as a result of some drunken mob attacking you.”

Subsequently the league implemented stricter controls on its matches including a ban on BYO alcohol and searches of vehicles entering grounds.

The Standard understands police were unable to find the assault culprits. Mr Coolahan has called for witnesses to the brawl to contact him.

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Wolfenstein The New Order: A new kind of old-school shooter

After more than 20 years, B.J. Blaskowicz is still blowing away Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.In 1992, Wolfenstein 3D changed the face of gaming. Rarely has a brand new genre materialised in such a complete form – the granddaddy of first-person shooters featured a surprising number of elements that would remain with us, such as health and ammo meters, multiple weapons the player could switch between quickly, and of course the general pacing and gameplay feel that two decades of iteration and advancement have barely changed.
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In the years since, the Wolfenstein franchise has never achieved the same kind of high as it did back in the days of MS-DOS and 386 processors. 2001’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein was regarded as competent but unremarkable by most reviewers, except for its extremely popular multiplayer, and 2009’s Wolfenstein was met with mediocre reviews and tepid sales.

Now there’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, due for release in May, which looks set to be an interesting change of pace, at the very least. The multiplayer aspect is gone, for one thing, and the single-player is strongly story-driven and features a cast of vividly-portrayed characters, created via full performance capture technology. It’s being made by Machinegames, a new Swedish studio formed by some of the key personnel who worked on Chronicles of Riddick at Starbreeze Studio.

The core story idea is an interesting one: a Polish-American soldier is injured in an assault on a Nazi base during World War II, and wakes up 14 years later in a world conquered by the Third Reich. The resistance forces are scattered and demoralised, so he takes it upon himself to rescue the movement’s leaders from prison and engage the Nazi conquerors in a guerrilla war. It’s a familiar plot for readers of science fiction, such as Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, but it’s a genre largely untouched by video games.

My experience with early demos of the game had not been encouraging, with the shooter gameplay feeling just too generic to be interesting. However, last week I got hands-on with the latest preview version, and I was very impressed. This is a game that has come a long way in the past six months, and is well on the way to being an exceptionally good shooter.

After my session, I chatted with Pete Hines, who is handling PR and marketing for the game. We broke the ice by discussing the world’s most easy-to-hate villains. “Nazis are the easiest and require the least explanation of all villains in all games ever. Kill Nazis? Got it. I don’t need you to explain, like, why? Oh, Nazis, right, got it,” he said with a laugh.

“Machinegames didn’t just rest on that, though,” he went on. “Sure, they’re Nazis, but the way they’re portrayed through Deathshead, Frau Engel, and some of the Nazi leaders, you get some real insight into the evil, twisted nature of these folks. So you say, sure, I want to kill all the Nazis, but that guy? I want him to die badly. It gives you a bit of an intimate connection in terms of what you’re trying to accomplish.”

One of my favourite things about the setting is the multicultural nature of the allies battling the Nazi scourge. In the game’s introductory levels, set in 1946, the game’s hero B.J. Blaskowicz is just one soldier in a multinational assault force, a Polish-American among other American, English, and Scottish soldiers. After waking from his coma in 1960, he joins forces with two extremely bad-ass Polish grandparents.

“One of the cool things that Machinegames did that I think lends the game that international flair is that people speak in their native tongues,” Hines said. “The Polish characters speak Polish, for example, and the Germans in German. We just subtitle it all.” It is amusing listening to Blaskowicz struggling through a conversation using a handful of half-forgotten Polish, for example.

Hines then gave me some background into Machinegames, the young studio that has landed a very high profile property for their debut game. “It started as a group of guys who had worked together at Shift Games and Starbreeze, and who wanted to start a new studio. They were interested in Wolfenstein, and the original was a game they really loved, and made a lot of them want to get into making games in the first place.”

“They had a particular notion about the kind of games they liked to make, and they wanted to make a game that was a shooter but also a bit of an action adventure game that did a lot more with character and storytelling and narrative.”

The result is a pleasing mix of old-school shooter and modern refinement. At its heart, it’s you and a pile of guns versus a horde of bad guys, but the energy and rhythm of it is something newer. There’s an element of strategy to the gunplay, and a pleasing variety of approaches to every situation. Levels are generally quite large and include several alternate paths to victory.

“They were also interested in taking the shooter aspect and layering in these sort of RPG elements, and letting the player find their way through the game in the way they want,” Hones continued. “Like, how do you get through this area? Do you want to use stealth, or do you want to go in guns blazing, more than just run down this corridor then run down that corridor.”

One of the things that makes this variety of gameplay work well is New Order’s perk system, a kind of RPG-lite skill tree that rewards the player for completing various tasks with the game’s many weapons, thereby unlocking new abilities. Perks serve a double purpose, both rewarding the player for learning a particular weapon, and also encouraging a variety of gameplay styles.

“I think it was in part to help highlight the options you have while playing the game,” Hines told me. “It wasn’t just, here’s a gun, go shoot bad guys. Instead you might take the stealthy approach, or we might highlight to the player different ways to do things, and then to reward them for those things. So by doing enough stealth kills, you open up more ways to do stealth kills, not just using my knife as a close-up melee thing, but also to use it as a ranged thing and use a knife to take out a guy at a distance, or I could wield two knives.”

“It allows the player to discover all of the things the game allows you to do. It gives you a little mini side-mission, almost, like when you’re in the middle of playing the game, you’re thinking, do I have an opportunity to kill someone while doing a slide, or to take out multiple guys with a grenade? It’s optional too; it’s not like you can’t finish the game without them, but they provide a bit more depth and fun in these challenge opportunities.”

For myself, the perks were always encouraging me to try new things rather than sticking with a single thing that worked. New weapon abilities would be unlocked after scoring a certain number of headshots, for example, so I would sometimes try to be precise and score headshots instead of just spraying a room with bullets. In the same way, I would try more stealth in some sections to unlock new stealth abilities.

Gameplay aside, New Order is likely to generate some controversy for its extreme violence. There’s a certain Tarantino-esque vibe to the action, which extends to the on-screen bloodshed. In Australia, the game has secured an R18+ rating, and Hines is unapologetic.

“We do mature games,” he said simply. “That is pretty much what we do, make games for grown-ups, so we have a pretty good idea of what it means to get these games rated and to know where the line is. I mean, we want the devs to be able to make the game they want to make, but of course we also want to be able to sell it, and have people be able to buy it in a range of countries.”

You will be able to judge Wolfenstein: The New Order when it is released on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows PC on 22 May.

– James “DexX” Dominguez

Screen Play is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

Patties caught in the crossfire

Patties Foods, the market leader in the savoury and fruit pie categories, is in the front lines of the battle waging through the supermarket channel over private- label branding and a shift by consumers away from well-known labels to supermarket-own offerings.
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Patties actually straddles both sides of the battle, with a private-label business that makes foods for contracted grocery clients while also owning some of the most popular brands in the frozen foods aisle such as Patties, Four’n Twenty, Herbert Adams and Nanna’s. The food producer also has a growing business catering to hungry travellers who pull into their local service station or convenience store eager for a quick hot snack.

But it is feeling the pain from the supermarkets as they screw down ­suppliers and also devote more space to private-label brands.

Patties Foods flat first-half fiscal 2014 result showed net profit down 3.3 per cent to $8.8 million, while underlying profit (ignoring abnormals) was down 7.5 per cent. The company did its best to keep costs in check but did open the purse strings to pump up marketing spend to support its key food brands.

Revenue for the first half was only marginally up to $126.5 million, which was impacted by the loss of a private-­label contract. It has forecast flat earnings for the second half of fiscal 2014.

Morningstar analyst Daniel Mueller noted the weakness of the second half forecast given a packaging automation project commissioned during the half which is expected to deliver full benefits in the second half.

He said Patties had flagged a number of initiatives for the second half, including new product launches, price increases and cost controls.

”This makes the flat second half outlook particularly perplexing.”

Morningstar has lowered its fiscal 2014 and 2015 NPAT forecasts by 6.9 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively and now expects fiscal 2014 to be down on the previous year.

”While the company has maintained revenue growth, this has been achieved to the detriment of margins and we reduce our long-term margin forecasts. Our fair value estimate decreases from $1.40 to $1.30, with the shares currently around fair value.”

Shares in Patties have fallen 18.5 per cent in the past 12 months.

Lee Rigby murder: Two men sentenced to life in prison

London: The two men who hacked to death a young soldier in Woolwich in south London last year have been sentenced to life in prison.
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One of them will die in jail, after a judge set the highest possible prison term: whole of life. And the other will be an old man before he can possibly be released.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, hit Lee Rigby with a car and then attacked him with large knives, nearly decapitating him with a meat cleaver.

Justice Sweeney said the pair “went far beyond what was needed to murder him”, resulting in a “bloodbath”. “You both gloried in what you had done,” he said.

The pair were not in the courtroom to hear their sentence after a commotion in the dock.  Adebolajo started shouting ‘‘Allahu akbar’’ (God is greatest) and Adebowale called out ‘‘that’s a lie’’ as the judge told them their extremist views were “a betrayal of Islam”. They then scuffled with eight guards before being carried down to the holding cells.

Rigby’s family sobbed during the commotion, the BBC reported, and the judge later apologised to them for “what happened in the dock”.

Justice Sweeney said the pair’s behaviour on the Woolwich streets was ‘‘sickening and pitiless’’. The cold-blooded, broad-daylight attack on the off-duty Fusilier in May was intended as an act of terrorism and an act of revenge for attacks on Muslims overseas. It made headlines around the world as the blood-stained attackers stayed at the scene of the crime, posing for photographs and talking to onlookers.

Justice Sweeney said the crime was a “betrayal of Islam” with terrorist connections, and was of “exceptionally high” seriousness. He sentenced Adebolajo to a whole-life term, as the attack’s ringleader, and Adebowale to a minimum of 45 years’ prison, as an enthusiastic follower.

They were sentenced at the Old Bailey on Wednesday afternoon. They were found guilty in December, but the judge was waiting for a separate decision about the validity of whole-life sentences before passing sentence. Under British law, the “most heinous cases” of murder can attract whole-of-life sentences, under which the offenders will die in jail.

Lee Rigby’s family arrived together at the Old Bailey for the sentencing, wearing identical T-shirts with his photograph and the slogan “Justice for Lee Rigby”.

The case has inflamed racial tensions. Far-right  British National Party supporters placed gallows outside the Old Bailey. Members of the BNP and the far-right English Defence League demonstrated outside the court, as they did in South London on the night after the murder. They waved flags and some called for the death sentence.

Inside, the court heard victim impact statements from Rigby’s family. His estranged wife Rebecca, mother of their three-year-old son Jack, said that after the murder “I felt like I didn’t want to go on”.

“My son will grow up and see images of his dad that no son should have to endure, and there’s nothing I can do to change this,” she said.

Rigby’s stepfather Ian said “all [Lee] was doing was walking through London. You take it all in but you can’t comprehend it.”

Justice Sweeney read the sentence in the absence of the defendants, after they started shouting and struggling with security guards in the dock when the sentencing began.

At trial last year Adebowale did not offer a defence, while Adebolajo said he was a soldier “obeying the command of Allah”.

He said they targeted Rigby because he wore a Help for Heroes top and carried a camouflage bag.

The jury unanimously found them guilty of murder, but cleared them of attempting to murder a police officer after the attack on Rigby.

When police arrived at the crime scene Adebolajo sprinted at armed officers with a knife, but was shot down by an officer. The men said they had wanted police to shoot them dead so they could “achieve martyrdom”.

Last week the UK Court of Appeal ruled that criminals could be locked up until they die, released only in exceptional circumstances. The government had argued that in the most serious offences, a life sentence should be for life.

“Our courts should be able to send the most brutal murderers to jail for the rest of their lives,” said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

The European Court of Human Rights found last year that all convictions should included the possibility of release, and life sentences should be reviewed after 25 years.

Both defence barristers argued at the Old Bailey on Wednesday that a whole-of-life sentence was not appropriate in this case, as it was a one-off act with one victim. Adebowale’s lawyer said a sentence with a minimum term was the most appropriate.

Adebolajo’s lawyer said the murder was a crime that shocked the nation, but a whole-life term could not be justified. He said an indeterminate sentence would create a martyr, and his client was not so depraved or wicked as to be incapable of redemption.

Rigby’s family have welcomed the punishment, saying justice has been served and no lesser sentence would have been sufficient. Outside court after the sentences were passed down, a police liaison officer read a short statement on behalf of the family.

“The Rigby family welcomes the whole-life and significant sentences that have been passed down on Lee’s killers,” the statement said. “We feel that no other sentence would have been acceptable and we would like to thank the judge and the courts for handing down what we believe to be the right prison terms.

“We would also like to thank everyone who has supported us in the last nine months. It has brought us a lot of comfort and we feel satisfied that justice has been served for Lee.”

The Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner Cressida Dick said: “Today’s sentence reflects the true horror of their actions in taking this young man’s life in such a barbaric way . . . Our thoughts remain with Lee’s loved ones, who have shown dignity and strength throughout the judicial process.”

Sue Hemming, head of special crime and counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said the soldier’s family had found the whole court process distressing.

“Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale revelled in one of the most appalling terrorist murders I have seen whilst head of counter-terrorism at the CPS,” she said.

“Not only was the attack brutal and calculated, it was also designed to advance extremist views. As a solider, Fusilier Lee Rigby was targeted in a clear act of revenge, deliberately carried out in full view of members of the public for maximum impact.”

‘I made a dumb mistake’: New Zealand man admits pretending to be decorated SAS soldier

One boast too many … Hawke’s Bay builder Yordan Militch was found guilty of breaching the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act after purchasing medals online and passing them off as his own. One boast too many … Hawke’s Bay builder Yordan Militch was found guilty of breaching the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act after purchasing medals online and passing them off as his own.
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One boast too many … Hawke’s Bay builder Yordan Militch was found guilty of breaching the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act after purchasing medals online and passing them off as his own.

NAPIER: He bought medals off Trade Me, pinned them to his chest and made up elaborate tales about life as an SAS soldier.

New Zealand man Yordan Militch captivated crowds with stories of picking off the enemy as a sniper, and saving his mates from dangerous situations.

But his tall tales came to police attention after he spoke at an educational course last year.

He admitted yesterday that he just got carried away.

“I thought I was something I wasn’t, and that was it.”

Mr Militch pinned six medals to his chest when he spoke at the Landmark Forum in Hastings and described himself as one of the most decorated soldiers in New Zealand, the police summary presented to the Napier District Court said.

He explained what it was like serving in Afghanistan and East Timor, and while deployed as a sniper in Ireland.

Mr Militch claimed he was awarded two medals for saving his mates, while the others recognised his peacekeeping efforts.

In reality, Mr Militch is a family man living in a house he built overlooking the sea on the Hawke’s Bay coast.

He served in the artillery division of New Zealand Defence Force between February 2002 and February 2004 at Linton. He was never deployed overseas and did not serve with the SAS.

“I made a dumb mistake, and that was it,” he told The Dominion Post yesterday.

Mr Militch said the military had rung him up and called him an idiot.

He agreed. He regrets that he elaborated “just a bit”.

Mr Militch pleaded guilty to breaching the Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918 when he appeared in the court this week. He was convicted, fined $NZ300 and ordered to pay $NZ150 court costs.

The builder said wanted to apologise to everyone he had fooled, including students at Lindisfarne College a few years ago.

He was taking boot camps in Hawke’s Bay at the time, and was recommended to the school as an inspiring speaker.

“At first he was very convincing, but some things didn’t ring true,” college rector Ken MacLeod said.

Mr Militch told the school he was a sniper deployed overseas and at one point had Saddam Hussein in his sights. Mr MacLeod became suspicious and contacted parents with military connections. He believed they passed on the suspicions to the Defence Force and the police.

Mr Militch said his family were shocked to learn about his escapades but remained supportive.

Fairfax NZ

World’s weirdest businesses

Meet the Hunks 4 Hire team.Most of us make a living doing pretty banal jobs. We’re cooks, cleaners, lawyers and teachers. But a lucky few have the imagination and chutzpah to embark on enterprises that boggle the mind. Here are a few of the best.
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I’m a professional pervert

Cascie Wills has two unusual businesses – Hire A Hunk, which hires out male topless waiters for events and parties and Art4Play, which organises life drawing classes for hens’ nights.

“As funny as it sounds, I’m a professional pervert. In 2004 I came up with the idea of renting men after I couldn’t find a date to the races. I quickly realised there was a need in the market so I started Hire A Hunk. I hunted for hot guys everywhere – gyms, bus stops and coffee shops were my top picks, but I’d chase them down anywhere I saw them,” says Wills.

“We had a tough recruitment process and I screened every hunk. They had to be the sort of guy I would take home and introduce to my family, but with an extra sexy edge.” Ten years on, the business operates around Australia.

“I still own Hire A Hunk and now I also run Art4Play, which is a nude drawing experience for hens parties. I am lucky that I still get to do all of the hiring, every nude model and topless waiter is interviewed by me for quality control. With a team of more than 150 hunks, that’s a bigger job than it used to be,” Wills laughs.

I have a mail-order sex toy business

Amy Clark started Our Cheeky Treats in March 2013 after her love life became somewhat boring. Rather than accept all relationships end up in a bedroom routine, she had an idea to create Our Cheeky Treats.

“We are a discreet monthly delivery service to help Australian couples spice up their love life. At the start of each month we send a parcel of three surprise adult toys to enjoy,” says Clark.

She says the business is a success because many couples don’t like to go into an adult store. “People also struggle to buy adult products online as they have no idea what to order and toys are intimidating.” The business ships Australia-wide.

I’m a fashion psychologist

New York-based Dawnn Karen claims she is the first fashion psychologist in the US and one of only three in the world. The master of arts graduate from Columbia University’s counselling psychology program and former model and designer says she specialises in “styling from the inside out.”

“I bridge the gap between perception and reality and merged two distinct disciplines to form fashion psychology. My business serves clients around the world including business men and women, CEOs, politicians and entertainers to simultaneously enhance their psyche and wardrobe,” says Karen.

“A New York entrepreneur recently requested my service. Through counselling and colour and branding services, he left with a new-found confidence, a new wardrobe and the potential to increase revenue for his business. I also work with everyday people on handling first dates, job promotion and many other issues,” she explains. As they say, only in America…

I make Lego for a living

Minifig World is a small family business that sells custom minifigures (the name for Lego figures) and custom accessories for minifigures.

“The figures are created using Lego body parts and then outfitted with accessories imported from different manufacturers around the world that specialise in creating Lego compatible accessories,” says Mark Boehm, who runs Minifig World.

The business was born in 2009 after Boehm lost his my job. “I decided I wanted a change and to do something that didn’t seem like work but still made enough money to pay the bills. When I came across a manufacturer of Lego minifig compatible accessories on the internet I decided to try importing these accessories and began building and selling my own custom minifigures from a website I designed myself.”

Minifig World has become a steady, full-time business for Boehm, with young and old customers all over the world.

“We hope to expand our business by manufacturing our own accessories and developing minifigure-related board games,” he says.

I massage thoroughbred horses

Christian Langeder is an equine soft tissue therapist, specialising in soft tissue massage for thoroughbred horses. Working with Melbourne’s leading stables and trainers, Langeder helps to physically prepare equine athletes for events.

Apparently known around the stables as ‘The Muscle Guy’, Langeder started his business Thorough Performance seven years ago after he fractured his back and only soft tissue massage offered relief. Experiencing the benefits first hand, he sought certification as a soft tissue therapist for humans, so he could develop the therapy for animals.

“I began working with dressage rider Sylvia McLachlan four years ago after she had spent thousands of dollars on her mare Mayfly, only to be told by a vet that the horse would never compete again. I treated Mayfly twice and she has been competing in top-level dressage ever since, with no hiccups,” he explains.

Fatal violence occurred after G4S guards went in, PNG report finds

The violent clashes on Manus Island that left an Iranian asylum seeker dead happened after local G4S staff descended on protesting asylum-seekers, a preliminary police report has found.
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A Papua New Guinean police spokesman has told Fairfax Media that 23-year-old Reza Barati was killed by multiple blows to the head, probably from a piece of timber.

The autopsy, carried out on Monday, found that the blows caused a blood clot on the man’s brain.

The spokesman said the findings were preliminary but indicated that local G4S guards had carried out the violent suppression of the protest. PNG police and local villagers did not appear to be involved, he said.

But nobody was being ruled out, he said, as investigations continued.

Deputy police commissioner Simon Kauba told Fairfax Media: ”The investigation is ongoing. We’ve employed people in Port Moresby and Manus.”

The police had begun interviewing local G4S workers on Monday and were still carrying out the interviews, the spokesman said.

Mr Kauba said about seven or eight officers were investigating ”on the ground” and he expected the case to ”take all week”.

The police spokesman said reports had been submitted by the local police chief Alex N’Drasal on the events. ”Mobile squad” police officers were providing written statements and also being interviewed, the spokesman said. But initial reports suggested they had not been involved in the violence.

Warning shots had been fired, the police spokesman said. These had likely calmed the situation, he said. ”Otherwise, the place would have been burnt to the ground.”

There was confusion about the help being given by Australians. Mr Kauba said Australian assistance was ”not necessary” and had not been requested.

A spokeswoman for the AFP said the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) had asked for help with ”the coronial of the deceased Iranian being conducted by the PNG authorities”. She said two Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine officers would travel to Port Moresby to support the PNG coroner with the autopsy.

The local PNG Post Courier reported that Mr Kauba had said locals and PNG police had been ”cleared” of the investigation.

In Federal Parliament, meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed a motion admonishing opposition defence spokesman Stephen Conroy for accusing Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, the head of the government’s Operation Sovereign Borders, of being engaged in a political cover-up following the death.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop demanded that Labor leader Bill Shorten sack Senator Conroy, describing him as ”this dog of war”, but Mr Shorten said the senator’s withdrawal of the remark spoke for itself.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, a former classmate of General Campbell, moved the motion, saying: ”I think a line was crossed yesterday when the opposition defence spokesperson called into question the integrity of General Campbell”.

Senator Conroy defended himself, saying: ”We’ve seen tragic circumstances arising on Manus Island as a result of the government’s actions and there needs to be a full account.

Qantas cuts drag down local shares

Local shares fell on news that Qantas Airways will slash 5000 jobs and halt spending, and fell further after official data showed new business investment is declining more than expected.
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The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 26.1 points, or 0.5 per cent, on Thursday to 5410.9, with the broader All Ordinaries Index also shedding 0.5 per cent to 5420.3. All major sectors finished in the red, with industrials the hardest hit following heavy falls in Qantas, Transfield Services and ALS Ltd.

Australian shares took a mixed lead form offshore after stockmarkets in the United States closed marginally higher while shares in the United Kingdom and Europe were mostly lower.

The local currency and stockmarket both moved lower after Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed business spending fell 5.2 per cent in the December quarter. It was a bigger decline than the market expected. More worryingly, the downturn in capital expenditure looks set to worsen with a measure of business spending intentions 17.7 per cent lower than the same period a year earlier. Forecasts for mining investment are down 25 per cent.

Qantas Airways lost 9.1 per cent to $1.16 after confirming 5000 jobs will be slashed as the struggling airline posted a $252 million underlying loss for the six months ended December 31.

Speaking generally about the trend for large companies to slash jobs and rein in spending, CIMB equity strategist Shane Lee shrugged off concerns the tactic could limit future growth.

“In the short-to-medium term cutting labour costs is an effective way to drive productivity growth. Remaining staff increase their output per hour and by the time demand growth improves to a point where the lower staffing levels are no longer sufficient firms are in a better position to afford to start hiring again,” Mr Lee said.

“The downside to the broader picture is that current corporate cost-cutting trend puts pressure on the unemployment rate.”

Iron ore still falling

Transfield Services was the worst-performing stock in the ASX 200, falling 11.9 per cent to 85¢ despite showing a return to profitability in the six months ended December 31. The company unveiled plans to change its business structure, including selling its Indian operations and a minority stake in power producer Ratch Australia.

Laboratory service provider ALS Ltd (formerly Campbell Brothers) lost 10.8 per cent to $7.50 after downgrading its full year profit guidance.

The biggest miners were lower amid soft commodity prices. Resources giant BHP Billiton lost 0.5 per cent to $38.38, while main rival Rio Tinto shed 0.6 per cent to $66.60 as the spot price for iron ore, landed in China, fell to $US117.80 a tonne – its lowest price since July 1.

The big four banks were mixed. Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.4 per cent to $75.20, while Westpac Banking Corporation edged down 0.1 per cent to $33.54. ANZ Banking Group added 0.2 per cent to $32.15, and National Australia Bank shed 0.1 per cent to $34.82.

Among other bluechip stocks Telstra Corporation fell 0.4 per cent to $5.07. Woolworths lost 0.3 per cent to $36.42, while Wesfarmers, owner of Coles, shed 0.4 per cent to $42.60.Analyst upgrades abound

Mining services, media and investment conglomerate Seven Group Holdings fell 2 per cent to $8.01 after underlying interim net profit sunk 44 per cent, and the company confirmed its guidance for a 30 per cent to 40 per cent fall in annual earnings. Rival media company Nine Entertainment Co rose 0.4 per cent to $2.29 as its maiden interim results as a listed company came in slightly ahead of expectations outlined in the prospectus for its December float.

Online jobs outsourcing platform Freelancer dipped 5.4 per cent to $1.40 after its interim financial results beat the estimates outlined before the company floated in November but undershot aggressive analyst expectations.

Wealth management giant Perpetual Ltd rose 2.2 per cent to $50.79 after lifting its interim dividend by 60 per cent following strong revenue and profit growth.

Investment manager Henderson Group was the best-performing stock in the ASX 200, climbing 4.9 per cent to $4.68 as brokers, including Goldman Sachs, lifted their recommendations on the stock following Wednesday’s better than expected interim profit result.

Whitehaven Coal and Virtus Health each added more than 4.5 per cent after a raft of broker upgrades following results reported on Wednesday..

Warner’s slurs rile Proteas coach

South Africa coach Russell Domingo has condemned David Warner for making ball-tampering inferences against his team, but argued the slurs will entrench the home team’s advantage for the series-deciding Test against Australia starting on Saturday.
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Domingo said his team was buoyant from winning so convincingly in Port Elizabeth last week, and argued it put the Proteas in the prime position to win the third Test in Cape Town.

“A breakfast area the day after winning a cricket game and losing a cricket game are two totally different places,” he said after his team trained at Newlands on Wednesday.

“No matter how you try to not emphasise the importance of winning [after a loss], because you want to focus on processes. It is very important and we know it.

“After a win you just need to emphasise the good stuff about why you’ve been so successful. That’s the feeling I get at the moment. There’s a good energy around the side and guys know they’ve played more to their potential. Probably not at their best, but to their potential in the past Test match.”

Domingo argued the confidence derived from the 231-run win in Port Elizabeth would be complemented by a hunger to punish Australia opening batsmen Warner for casting doubt on the legitimacy of its ball-handling tactics in the field, because of the significant reverse-swing its bowlers were able to achieve.

“It’s a bit disappointing when guys throw those kind of accusations around,” the coach said.

“We’re a seriously motivated team. We’ve added 10 per cent to our motivation levels after those comments that he’s made.

“We see it as a massive form of motivation for us, to show the Australian side that we don’t need to play cricket in that way.

“We pride ourselves on playing the game as honestly and openly as possible.

“We’re very motivated by the comments he made, so it’s probably good for us.”

Domingo said he considered Warner’s comments too distasteful for he and his players to either ignore or laugh off.

“I don’t think it’s a nice comment that he’s made. That’s it,” he said. “It doesn’t sound good when sides are accusing other sides of… whatever. I don’t think it should be done.”

The South Africa coach also reckoned Australia would be somewhat burdened by having been bowled out for 47 on its past visit to Newlands, in late 2011, even though his team was dismissed for a sub-100 score in the same match.

“I saw a great banner at St George’s [Park in Port Elizabeth] . . . it said ‘I know what you did last summer – 47 all-out’,” he joked. “I’m sure they’ll probably look at the highlights over the next couple of days to see what happened here last time, and there will be a little bit of anxiety I suppose – but that’s part of it. We got bowled out for 96 last time.”

Domingo said his only request to the Newlands curator had been for “just a good cricket wicket”, not a pitch with any specific characteristics.

“We have had a chat. It looks a good wicket. I think he will probably want to keep a bit more moisture in it because it looks like it’s a wicket that could be ready to play on tomorrow [Thursday]. Maybe it’s a day or two ahead of schedule. There’s a lot of heat around so I’m sure he’ll be looking to get some moisture into it in the next day or so,” he said.

Domingo also insisted the Proteas were wary of the potential of Mitchell Johnson to strike back, after he claimed only three wickets in Port Elizabeth.

“He’s a wonderful bowler, he’s been in great form for the past couple of months. If we get complacent against Mitchell Johnson I think we do it at our own peril,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ve nullified him at all. We’ve got to make sure we do the basics against him again. He’s had an impact against South Africa before and he probably will at some stage again. But we’ve also had a lot of success against him before.

“We can take a lot of confidence out of how we played him in Port Elizabeth, but there’ll always be something in the back of your mind and knowing he’s the guy who can turn a session around, can turn a match around. You’ve got to be on your guard every single time.”

Driven Clarke shuns day off to train his way out of slump

“You don’t get better from the couch.”
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Such was the rationale of Australia captain Michael Clarke for why he challenged a firm directive for all members of Australia’s squad – staff as well as players – to have a full day off on Wednesday, and instead spend some of it in the nets at Newlands.

While Clarke was somewhat dismissive of criticism of his batting form in the immediate aftermath of Australia’s crushing defeat in Port Elizabeth his presence and conduct in the nets on Wednesday, in a session not flagged with the media, demonstrated he actually did take his record of not reaching 25 in his past 11 innings and nine dismissals seriously.

On Monday the captain was one of only two Australians to have played in Port Elizabeth – Alex Doolan was the other – to attend an optional training session that was intended for the five members of the squad had not played.

Clarke was seething about his dismissal in the first innings at St George’s Park, when he spooned Vernon Philander off the front foot to cover. Realising his judgement had to improve he set himself the challenge of approaching his net session in the same way – with punishment for any lapses.

“If any of you can get me out you can have my bat,” Clarke shouted to the four young net bowlers. The only caveat was that each had to set an imaginary field to him, so he knew where he could hit and where he could not.

Coach Lehmann, roped in with batting coach Michael Di Venuto from the day off, was also called to umpire by Clarke, to make sure he was complying with the fields set for him.

“Be tough on me. Anything close, I want that finger up,” Clarke demanded of Lehmann.

A footnote to the series so far has been the lack of impact with the bat from the two captains, with Clarke scoring 60 runs at an average of 20 and South Africa’s Graeme Smith scoring 37 at an average of 9.25.

For each to twice fail again in Newlands would be a significant blot in terms of the consistency achieved during their long and decorated careers. The only time in a series of at least three matches where Smith failed to reach 50 in any innings was in the 2004-05 tour of Australia. Clarke has only done so twice, both in that same season – at home to Pakistan and then away to New Zealand.

South Africa coach Russell Domingo had no inkling to critique Clarke, but was happy to laud the non-batting impact of Smith and his expectation the left-hander would respond in the series-deciding match.

“Our focus is not on Michael Clarke. It’s making sure Graeme is leading the side well,” he said.

“Graeme’s record speaks for itself. It’s very seldom that he goes through a series without making a contribution.”

“So it’s not something I’m too fazed about. He’s a quality player, his record speaks for itself and he’s playing well at the moment. He’s looking in good touch. He’s just found ways of getting out, strange-ish dismissals at the moment.”

While the 20-minute stint Clarke spent with his bat up for grabs was only a fraction of the how long he hopes to be spending in the middle in Newlands he hit the ball crisply but also responsibility.

The four net bowlers, one of whom a particularly promising right-hander, left the nets without a prized reminder of their stint bowling to Australia’s captain. They did, however, get the lingering sense that even the world’s elite players sometimes have to get back to basics before returning to their customary form.