Shorten comes to Credlin’s defence

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes politicians, not staffers, should carry the blame for the Abbott government’s errors.


Conservative commentators and News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch have called for Peta Credlin to quit or be sacked as Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief of staff after a series of government policy stumbles.

Campaigning in Queensland for Saturday’s state election, Mr Shorten said targeting Ms Credlin over mistakes, such as awarding Prince Philip a knighthood, was wrong.

“Peta Credlin is not the person who should be carrying the blame for the mistakes of the Abbott government,” Mr Shorten said.

“This is not some episode of The West Wing where you attribute everything to the staffers.

“This is a question of accountability. This is Tony Abbott’s mistake.”

He said the government’s problem was not about personalities, but its policies.

Health Minister Sussan Ley also came to Ms Credlin’s defence, saying she was a “terrific asset” for the Liberal party and the PM’s office.

Speaking to reporters at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Ms Ley talked up the government’s chances of recovering.

“Sometimes you can be down match point and still recover,” she said.

“Sometimes you can make a silly drop shot in the middle of the game and you can win that game and go on and win the match.”

Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt said on Thursday the knighthood decision could end Mr Abbott’s leadership.

“This is just such a very, very, very stupid decision. So damaging that it could be fatal,” he told Macquarie Radio.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie, who the government is courting to pass changes to Medicare and universities, said Mr Abbott was “completely out of touch with the Australian people”.

“Tony Abbott just can’t put a foot right,” she said.

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Dons supplements saga closer to resolution

The Essendon supplements saga has moved a step closer to a resolution with a timetable set down for the conclusion of the AFL’s Anti-Doping Tribunal.


The Tribunal hearing of the cases against 34 past and present Essendon players issued with infraction notices, that began in December, will hear closing oral submissions from all parties on February 16 before adjourning “on or about” February 18 to consider its decision.

Legal representatives for the AFL, ASADA and the players agreed to the timetable for the conclusion of proceedings, in a statement released by the league.

The Tribunal adjourned until February 16 on Thursday, but as part of the road map to a resolution, ASADA will file written closing submissions by February 5, the players will file their written closing submissions by February 12 and the AFL will do the same by February 13.

While the Tribunal will adjourn to consider whether the players breached the AFL’s Anti-Doping Code on February 18, there is no timeframe for the completion of those deliberations.

The current and former Essendon players issued with infraction notices are provisionally suspended from playing until the case is resolved.

The NAB Challenge series kicks off on February 26, but the Bombers aren’t set to play their first game, against St Kilda in Morwell, until Saturday, March 7.

If any of the past or present players are found to have breached the code a further hearing to determine sanctions will then be scheduled.

In related news, Essendon coach James Hird will find out on Friday whether his appeal against the legality of the ASADA investigation to the full bench of the Federal Court has been successful.

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Court for Qld mum accused of killing eight

A north Queensland community where eight children were found dead is beginning to heal more than a month after one of the country’s worst tragedies.


The Cairns suburb of Manoora was rocked less than a week before Christmas when four boys and four girls, aged two to 14 years, had been found dead at a home in their neighbourhood.

Another wave of grief struck when Raina Mersane Ina Thaiday, mother of seven of the children and aunt to the eighth, was charged with their murders the following day.

Her case is due to be mentioned in the Cairns Magistrates Court on Friday.

Community advocate Yodie Batzke says residents have found strength in each other and rallied around the families affected.

“We’re seeing a greater awareness of a sense of community,” she told AAP.

Ms Batzke said she was also seeing crucial changes going on within the community, historically known for high crime rates, unemployment and violence.

“The community wants to change the negative brand and stigma that has been attached for many, many years,” she said.

“There is a different direction, there is a sense of ‘How can we come together to make Manoora a different suburb?'”

Counselling and support services are being offered in Manoora and the Torres Strait Islands, where the grieving families are from.

Fishing trips, morning tea gatherings and respite for stressed parents have also been organised in Cairns.

The children were farewelled at a service at the Cairns Convention Centre by thousands of mourners on January 10.

Thaiday was initially treated at the Cairns Base Hospital for stab wounds before being transferred to Brisbane on Christmas Eve.

Her lawyer indicated in late December the case may be heard in a mental health court.

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Ribery out as Bayern take on challengers Wolfsburg

But even without the pair, coach Pep Guardiola can choose from a growing squad with Holger Badstuber, Mehdi Benatia and David Alaba, among other, returning to full fitness after their injuries.


The Bavarians are unbeaten in the league this season and have conceded just four goals in 17 games so far to carve out an 11-point lead over Wolfsburg.

Guardiola is eager for his team to shoot out of the blocks with a win that would take them 14 points clear as they chase a third straight Bundesliga title, a second under the Spaniard.

“I think it is good to take on the second-placed team straightaway as it forces us to step on the gas,” Guardiola said.

“I repeat that for us the Bundesliga is the most important aim of the season. Only then it is a successful one. Wolfsburg have played an outstanding season so far so it will be tough.”

But Bayern remain the odds-on favourites with Wolfsburg still coming to terms with the death of their player Junior Malanda.

The Belgium youth international was killed when the car he was a passenger in went off the motorway and flipped over several times on Jan. 10 as the team prepared to leave for a training camp in South Africa.

“We will be well prepared,” said sports director Klaus Allofs with the team offering continuous psychological support to the players, who also travelled the Brussels for the funeral last week.

At the other end of the table, former champions Borussia Dortmund are hoping they can finally start turning around their dismal domestic season and move out of the 17th spot, level on points with last placed Freiburg.

With winger Marco Reus back from injury, Dortmund will need all hands on deck against third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, six points off Wolfsburg and eager to stay within striking distance of second place.

“We are not naive and optimistic and we know full well the pressure will not ease any time soon,” said Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp, who led them to the Bundesliga title as recently as 2011 and 2012.

“But we look at our prospects and know that we can do this.

“To end the year in 17th place felt like a holiday on a bed of nails.”

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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ICC changes mind on World Cup super over

The International Cricket Council has made a late adjustment to playing conditions for the upcoming World Cup, lessening the likelihood of joint winners.


If the March 29 final of the one-day tournament ends in a tie, the two sides will play a super over to decide who lifts the trophy.

The ICC had previously declared the unlikely scenario would result in both sides being declared co-champions.

There is still an incredibly unlikely chance of that happening, if the final and reserve day are both washed out.

In the case of other knock-out matches being tied, the team ranked higher in the pool stage will progress.

It was this rule that helped Australia win the World Cup in 1999, when their semi-final against South Africa at Edgbaston ended with scores level following Allan Donald’s dramatic run-out.

In a boost for England captain Eoin Morgan and South Africa skipper AB de Villiers, the ICC board also agreed on Wednesday that prior over-rate offences would not count against captains at the World Cup.

Ordinarily, as was the case with George Bailey earlier this month, a captain would suffer a one-game ban if responsible for slow over-rates twice in the space of 12 months.

But the ICC decided on Wednesday that every skipper will have their slow-over strikes wiped for major tournaments.

De Villiers was fined for his side’s slow over-rate against Australia in November, while Morgan was punished for the same offence in a one-day loss to Sri Lanka in December.

Meanwhile, administrators also confirmed they will attempt to crack down on sledging.

“The ICC Board reiterated its support for the umpires clamping down on poor player behaviour, particularly leading into and during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015,” the ICC said in a statement.

The World Cup starts on February 14, when New Zealand hosts Sri Lanka in Christchurch and Australia meet England at the MCG.

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Hewitt plans 2016 Australian Open swansong

Lleyton Hewitt plans to bypass the French Open to focus on one last crack at Wimbledon and Davis Cup glory before ending his celebrated career at next year’s Australian Open.


Hewitt on Thursday outlined his dream farewell from tennis after being confirmed as Australia’s Davis Cup captain-in-waiting.

Pat Rafter stood down as skipper to formally assume the role as Tennis Australia’s director of performance and said Hewitt would succeed interim captain Wally Masur “when the time is right and ready”.

Masur, who won the Davis Cup twice as a player in 1983 and 1986 before serving as coach during John Fitzgerald’s tenure, will take the reins for the World Group first-round tie against the Czech Republic in Ostrava from March 6-8.

“Lleyton has an undeniable link with Davis Cup and he will be captain one day,” Masur said.

“It’s not in the model in Australian tennis to have a playing captain as such.

“Obviously (we) spoke to Lleyton a few days ago about it and we’ve come to the arrangement that he’s still a player, he still has a career to flesh out and see where that ends.

“Until that happens, I’ll be captain.”

Turning 34 next month, Hewitt is hoping he won’t be required to step up until after playing a part in a triumphant Australian campaign this year.

“I’ve thought long and hard,” he said.

“I plan to play the Aussie Open next year and most likely finish then.

“Obviously for me the Davis Cup is something we’ve worked extremely hard to put ourselves in a position in the World Group where we have a genuine shot.”

With the emergence of two-time teenage grand slam quarter-finalist Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic’s resurgence, Hewitt believes Australia has the talent to win the prestigious teams’ event for a 29th time in 2015.

“I believe with the guys now we have a lot more options, a lot more depth,” he said.

“I feel like I can still put my hand up as a player and help the boys get over the line.

“Whether that’s singles, doubles, whatever is needed. Right at the moment that’s the main focus for us.

“Personally, I’ll be looking towards the grasscourt season and most likely finishing here in Melbourne, which for me would obviously be special to play 20 Australian Opens.”

The former world No.1 plans to play only sparingly in 2015 and says he’ll “most likely” skip Roland Garros to focus on Wimbledon, where he won his second and last grand slam crown in 2002.

Australia’s longest-serving and most prolific Davis Cup singles winner, Hewitt has long been groomed for the captaincy and doubles great and former teammate Todd Woodbridge told AAP the dual grand slam champion would be perfect for the job.

“It’s a great result,” Woodbridge said.

“You’ve got no one more passionate about it, no one with more experience.”

Masur, 51, said it was an honour to take over the captaincy – for however long he’s in the job.

“I have to say, the best memories I have of tennis is playing Davis Cup and being involved,” he said.

“(And) I feel like we’ve got a chance to win the whole thing (this year).”

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Improving Neymar key to Barca’s pursuit of Real

The pressure of expectation and scandal over the true cost of his transfer fee from Santos in 2013 led former president Sandro Rosell to resign and appeared to weigh heavily on Neymar during his first season at the Nou Camp.


He also found it difficult to adapt to the physical demands of the Spanish league and picked up a series of injuries.

The Brazilian took a share of the blame for Barca finishing last season without a major trophy but helped by the media glare turning towards controversial signing Luis Suarez, Neymar is realising his true potential on European soil.

The return to form of Lionel Messi has also played a part, while Suarez, although yet to show the lethal finishing he possessed at Liverpool, is linking up well.

Messi has more goals this season but Neymar has developed a habit of scoring in crucial matches, including his double as Barca twice came from behind to knock Atletico Madrid out of the King’s Cup on Wednesday.

Barca booked a place in the semi-final with a 3-2 victory, 4-2 on aggregate, in a stormy game that saw Atletico finish with nine players.

Surprisingly, as the Catalan side are renowned for their short passing game through midfield, both goals came from rapid counter-attacks.

The first saw the forward trio combine to tear Atletico’s defence apart with Messi finding Suarez, who in turn set up Neymar to finish clinically.

Neymar’s over-exuberant celebrations and posturing on the pitch seemed to agitate the Atletico players and coach Luis Enrique felt it wise to take him off for the final 15 minutes.

“Neymar was his usual confident self and he gave us a lot in attack as well as defence. His game is about beating players and he did very well,” the Barca coach told reporters.

“The game was getting a bit ugly and so we took Neymar off so that it didn’t get any worse.”

Real Madrid, a point clear of Barca at the top, take on Real Sociedad on Saturday without the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, while Atletico, four points off the pace, aim to bounce back from their cup defeat when they travel to Eibar.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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Clive Palmer falls from rich list

Plunging commodity prices have knocked Clive Palmer off Australia’s top 50 rich list.


Mr Palmer’s estimated wealth has fallen below $US550 million – the cut off for the latest Forbes Australia list – as the value of his coal and iron ore assets fell.

He’s not the only mining magnate whose fortune has been hit by tumbling commodity prices.

Gina Rinehart’s wealth dropped by $US6 billion, but she remains the country’s richest person with a net worth of $US11.7 billion.

Fortescue Metals founder Andrew Forrest dropped from fifth to tenth on the list, as his net worth shrunk from $US5 billion to $US2.1 billion.

Forbes said Australia’s mining royals have taken a hit from a worldwide decline in the demand for steel, particularly in China.

“The drop in iron ore prices and the Australian dollar’s 6.5 per cent depreciation against the US dollar were among the factors that impacted many of the richest,” it said.

The collective worth of Australia’s 50 richest people was $US89.3 billion in 2014, down from $US101.15 billion a year earlier.

A real estate boom, partly driven by soaring interest in Australian real estate from Asian buyers, boosted the wealth of property tycoons.

Sydney developer Harry Triguboff rose to second on the list as his fortune more than quadrupled to $US5.6 billion.

Known as “Highrise Harry” for developing more than 60,000 apartments throughout his career, Mr Triguboff is the founder of Australia’s biggest apartment builder Meriton.

Westfield shopping centre tycoon Frank Lowy is the third richest Australian, adding $US400 million to his net worth, to $US5 billion.

Casino mogul James Packer is fourth despite falling revenue from Crown’s Macau casino interests wiping $US2 billion from his net worth.

Ivan Glasenberg, who holds the biggest private stake in mining giant Glencore, was also hit by the commodity price downturn, but is ranked fifth with a net worth of $US4.4 billion.


1 – Gina Rinehart, mining, $US11.7b

2 – Harry Triguboff, property, $US5.6b

3 – Frank Lowy, retail, $US5b

4 – James Packer, casinos, $US4.7b

5 – Ivan Glasenberg, mining, $US4.4b

6 – John Gandel, retail, $US3.6b

7 – Anthony Pratt, manufacturing, $US3.5b

8 – Kerr Neilson, investment, $US3b

9 – Lindsay Fox, transport, $US2.9b

10 – Andrew Forrest, mining, $US2.1b

Source: Forbes Australia

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Unique Old Firm derby as Rangers meet Celtic for 400th time

For the first time since they first met in 1890, the two clubs, who have won 99 Scottish titles between them, are not meeting as equals separated by a few points in the same division.


Instead, Premiership leaders Celtic go into the first Old Firm derby for almost three years as overwhelming favourites, while Rangers, battling their way back from meltdown in the Championship (second tier), are clear underdogs.

The two biggest clubs in Scotland, who used to meet four or more times a season, are re-engaging for the first time since Rangers were demoted to the bottom tier following their financial collapse in 2012.

Celtic’s Norwegian manager Ronny Deila says the match at neutral Hampden Park will be one of the biggest of his life.

“It’s a first meeting with Rangers for me,” he told BBC Scotland. “I’ve played in big games and finals before but this is going to be a very big one.

“You can feel the atmosphere in the city. Right now it feels like the most important thing in the world.

“There is a lot of emotion. It means a lot to people, the whole city. Football needs derbies like that.”

Rangers manager Kenny McDowall added: “We’ve waited nearly three years for an Old Firm game so never mind the eyes of the world being on us, I expect the people in Pluto will be watching it. Seriously, the most important thing is the game and that it’s a good spectacle.”

Police are taking precautions to stop any crowd disorder between the two fiercely partisan sets of supporters.

“I just hope the football comes out on top and there’s nothing on the outside that tarnishes it,”, added McDowall.

“It’s been a long time coming and we need to make sure football is the winner.”

Rangers, once home to players like Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne, were in the UEFA Cup final seven years ago. But spending more on wages than they could afford in order to rival Celtic and ensure qualification for the lucrative Champions League led to their downfall.

Their demise was sealed with spiralling debts, a tax battle and a series of ownership tussles.

Now reformed and rising up the leagues, things off the pitch remain dire due to high costs, more overspend and smaller crowds than they would get in the Premiership.

Riddled with boardroom infighting, various backers have failed to seal rescue deals, including U.S. financier Robert Sarver who saw two takeover moves rebuffed this year.

(Additional reporting by Neil Maidment, editing by Alan Baldwin)

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Vultures circling as crisis clubs Milan and Parma meet

Bottom-of-the-table Parma, mired in both financial problems and surrounded by a continuing mystery over their new owners, visit AC Milan on Sunday in a meeting of crisis clubs.


Milan, who like Parma were knocked out of the Coppa Italia in midweek, have dropped to joint 10th after failing to win a match since the Christmas break, although the club have dismissed suggestions that coach Filippo Inzaghi’s job is in danger.

Their problems pale into insignificance compared to Parma, however, who have nine points after losing 16 out of 20 games and lost a key relegation match at home to Cesena last week.

Parma’s troubles were exposed on Monday when they parted company with volatile striker Antonio Cassano who said he was owed several month’s wages.

“Every time they told us we would be paid tomorrow and the next day it was tomorrow again. Enough is enough. I couldn’t take it anymore, this agony was dragging on,” he told Italian media.

In December, Parma, who missed out on the Europa League this season for failing to meet UEFA licensing criteria, were deducted one point for breaching financial regulations.

Shortly afterwards, the club was sold to Dastraso Holding although little is known about the new owners other than that they are based in Cyprus.

Ermir Kodra, a 29-year-old Albanian, was named club president last week. The club said he had previously worked at BKT Bank di Tirana and ARMO refinery, although there was no mention of any previous experience in football.

Cassano said, however, that little had changed under the new ownership.

“I don’t know who the new owners are,” he said. “In 20 days we have seen four different presidents walk past. The new owners arrived 15 days ago, but nothing changed.

Donadoni said he would stay and dismissed suggestions that defender Gabriel Palletta was on his way to Sampdoria.

“I do not understand these questions, it gives me the impression there are vultures circling,” he told Rai Sport after Wednesday’s 1-0 cup defeat at home to Juventus.

“He has a contract and I don’t see any reason why Parma should think about sending him away.”

“It takes more dignity to stay in the saddle than to leave,” added the former Italy coach and player.

“It is easy to say that I’m leaving because I have not been paid or that I had other offers from teams abroad. The only thing that makes sense is to do my duty until the end. We must not just think of ourselves.”

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Alan Baldwin)

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