‘Other’ Ronaldo dismisses Mourinho jibe ahead of friendly

Mourinho said that aged 30, he had trained ‘the true Ronaldo, not the other one, Ronaldo the Brazilian’ in his time as assistant at Barcelona.

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“Some things in life are not worth commenting on and this is one more for obvious reasons,” Ronaldo told a news conference in Los Angeles, where Real are on a pre-season promotional tour.

“I prefer to remember the good things from coaches. I don’t spit on the plate from which I eat and I don’t speak about people who say bad things about me.

“We are going to face Chelsea, not their coach. It is another warm-up game and we hope to win it so we can start La Liga in the best manner possible.”

Real have won all their pre-season warm up games to date under new coach Carlo Ancelotti and take on Chelsea on Wednesday, with Ronaldo having played in a newer more advanced striker role on the pitch.

“The coach has different strategies and different positions for everyone,” the 28-year-old said.

“It is good for me to try and play in different positions and I am comfortable with it. We’ll see where I end up playing during the season.”

Two of the hottest topics surrounding Real in the run up to the start of the new campaign are the club’s multi-million euro interest in signing Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale and talks over a contract extension for Ronaldo.

“It’s not my place to talk about new players,” Ronaldo said when asked about Bale, who according to media reports could eclipse Ronaldo’s world record transfer fee of $125 million if the move went ahead.

“It’s not my place either to talk about the numbers that are being mentioned for his transfer. I have my opinion but I am not going to say in front of the cameras.”

Real president Florentino Perez has said he wants Ronaldo to retire at the Bernabeu, but there appears to be little progress towards extending his current deal which runs until 2015.

“I am happy here and all I want to do is train and prepare well,” Ronaldo said. “The contract renewal hasn’t been resolved yet, but I shouldn’t talk about it because it isn’t the right moment.”

(Reporting by Mark Elkington; Editing by John O’Brien)

Dateline: Twitch and Shout

Zach, Mario and Cole are three friends who share a remarkable bond.

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They’re among the most severe cases of Tourette Syndrome in the United States, suffering a range of involuntary verbal and physical tics and sometimes violent outbursts.

The neurological condition is often deeply misunderstood by society, leading to feelings from sufferers that they don’t fit in.

SBS’s Dateline reports from the annual Camp Twitch and Shout, a special summer gathering for young people with Tourette Syndrome, and a place where they can truly be themselves.

What is Tourette’s?

The Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia provides local information and support. Here are some of its facts about the condition…

-Tourette’s is a neurological disorder that usually starts between the ages of 2 and 21 and lasts throughout life. People with Tourette’s have a normal life span.

– It’s characterised by rapid, repetitive and involuntary muscle movements and vocalisations called ‘tics’, which can vary from simple twitches and noises, to more severe actions such as hitting and biting or the involuntary utterance of obscene words.

– Typically tics increase as a result of tension or stress and decrease with relaxation or concentration on an absorbing task. The severity of symptoms can also vary generally over time.

– People with Tourette’s are more likely to also have other behavioural problems, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

– The cause has not been definitively established, but it seems to stem from the abnormal metabolism of a brain chemical called dopamine.

– Studies suggest that Tourette’s is usually, but not always, inherited. The severity can vary considerably between generations and the disorder may not be evident at all in some people.

– It’s named after 19th Century French neurologist Dr George Gilles de la Tourette, who was the first to specifically identify the syndrome.

– There is no cure, but medication can control some of the symptoms in some cases. There is currently no medication that can eliminate all symptoms.

– Some sufferers see a marked improvement in their condition in their late teens or early twenties.

Follow the links above for more information, plus the Camp Twitch and Shout site has more on the camp in Dateline’s story.

White admits meeting Raiders board

Canberra star Brett White has admitted he and skipper Terry Campese approached Raiders board members to express disgruntlement the night before coach David Furner’s axing.

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White and injured skipper Terry Campese went to a meeting with board member David Thom and major stakeholder Simon Hawkins on Monday night.

When asked on Friday if he went to the board to express disgruntlement with Furner, White replied: “In every organisation there’s going to be disgruntlement.

“I don’t deny there were issues but I’m not going to go into those issues.

“It’s not a public forum. They’re issues that have been brought up before and had been brought up with Dave (Furner).”

White, who was co-captain while Campese was injured last week, said he was still shocked to hear Furner had been sacked the following day.

“He’s a big part of this club and always will be,” White said.

“It’s unfortunate the way it all happened, but it’s done now and we’re prepared to move on and are excited about moving forward.

“We went in there with all good intentions of the club in mind. Those issues have been brought up before in the past.”

Campese said he only had the intention of approaching board members on Monday night with ideas on how they could move the club forward.

“The last thing I thought that was going to come out of that day was for Furnsy to be stood down,” Campese said.

“It was a shock to me when I heard and my intentions of the meeting that happened was not for Furnsy to get the sack.

“I was definitely disappointed.”

He added that he had a great relationship with Furner.

“I’ve worked with him for five years, and he was also my reserve grade coach,” Campese said.

“My relationship with Dave can hopefully continue and still be strong.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to Dave yet, I sent him a text message straight away.”

Campese said the duo did not speak to board members about Furner’s backing of troubled star Blake Ferguson, who is reportedly looking to leave the club and move back to Sydney.

“That’s out of our hands and is up to Blake and what he wants to do,” Campese said.

“If he’s happy to stay, he’s a quality player, and guys love playing with quality players.”

However when asked if there were certain players that were not happy with Ferguson being at the club, Campese replied: “Mate, I guess, I’m not sure you’ll have to ask the individual I guess. I’m happy that he’s here.”

Campese has been ruled out of Sunday’s clash against Manly but expects to return for the Warriors clash next week.

People smugglers ‘target Eritrean asylum seekers’

Many thousands of Eritreans have been fleeing their country in recent years.

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United Nations officials have said it’s a result of brutal government repression, including extra-judicial killings, disappearances, and torture.

 

Many of those fleeing are young people wanting to evade what seems like their country’s endless national military service.

 

The UN estimates several thousand people have been leaving each month, despite a shoot-to-kill order to Eritrea’s border forces.

A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS

 

Most cross into the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and Sudan, where there have now been large refugee camps for years.

 

A 10-year-old boy in Sudan’s Kassala refugee camp told a UNHCR film crew he and eight of his school friends walked for three days to get out of Eritrea.

“There are lot of traffickers on the way to Sudan.  They ask for money.  We had to run away from those people for three days.”

“There are lot of traffickers on the way to Sudan.  They ask for money.  We had to run away from those people for three days.  After three days we came to Sudan,” said the boy, speaking via a translator.

 

Often with the aid of people smugglers, some have crossed Sudan, then Egypt, to the Mediterranean coast.

 

Some have managed to cross the Mediterranean to European countries, but thousands have drowned as boats sank on the way.

 

A few years ago, Eritreans had to pay a few hundred dollars for help from people-smugglers to try to get beyond Sudan.

 

But it’s now said to have evolved into a multi-million dollar cross-border business involving not just criminal gangs, but corrupt soldiers serving in the Eritrean and Sudanese armies.

 

And there can be another danger.

 

In some cases, Eritrean refugees have been kidnapped and sold to tribesmen from the Rashaida Bedouin people who operate in Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt.

 

Family members have been forced to listen to their cries on mobile phones, and are told to pay more than $US 30,000 to secure their release.

 

The UN says it has also heard reports of people being killed by traffickers so their organs can be sold on the black market.

 

The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, has promised action.

 

“We believe that there must be serious international cooperation in order to make sure, gathering information, articulating a response from the different police departments in order to make sure these global criminal organisations are attacked in an effective way, that there is an effective crackdown on smuggling and trafficking, and at the same time attacking the criminals [and ensuring] that the victims are protected,” says Mr Guterres.

THE JOURNEY TO AUSTRALIA

SBS Radio’s Tigrinya program has been tracing Eritrean asylum-seekers who do manage to leave their country and then try to seek new lives further away, instead of waiting for years in refugee camps for resettlement offers.

 

Some have managed to cross by land across Sudan, then across Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, into Israel.

 

But those who have got as far as Israel have recently encountered a new problem.

 

The government of Israel has started to return them back to their home country.

 

Looking for new ways to secure their futures, some have paid people-smugglers to fly to Indonesia, with the intention of travelling to Australia by boat.

 

An Eritrean refugee activist in Israel has confirmed the trade exists.

 

“There are people who have already gone to Australia. For example, one year ago, people smugglers have been requesting people to pay $US2,000 to $US3,000 to go to Australia.  Up to 300 people were registered to go to Australia. But we informed the police and the process was halted for a while.  Last time there was one white Israeli who, with the collaboration of some Eritreans, was telling people that he was going to take Eritreans to Australia legally. Around 200 people each paid him $US2,000 to $US3,000 each.”

 

Other Eritrean refugees have not gone as far as Israel before they start a process to try to get to Australia.

 

One woman in Sudan says her brother managed to travel to Australia from Sudan, through Indonesia.

 

She says relatives in Europe paid thousands of dollars to people-smugglers, to enable him to make the trip.

 

Now he is in an Australian detention centre.

The payment was $US10,500 from here to Australia.  Then he arrived in Indonesia, upon his arrival they told him there was a boat ready to go to Australia.  And they push him to pay the money.

 “The agreement was from here (Sudan) to travel to Indonesia by plane and then to Australia by boat. The payment was $US10,500 from here to Australia.  Then he arrived in Indonesia, upon his arrival they told him there was a boat ready to go to Australia.  And they push him to pay the money.  Then my brothers who are in Europe paid the money,” she says.

 

Another Eritrean asylum-seeker, Muktar Hassen, says he also had to pay thousands of dollars to people-smugglers to make the trip from Sudan to Australia, via Indonesia.

 

He spent time in the Darwin detention centre before being transferred to Brisbane.

 

“I was the only Eritrean who came from Sudan to Indonesia by plane. A person whose name is Berhane organised and sent a visa. Totally, from Sudan to Jakarta and to Christmas Island we paid $US11, 000.  I spent four days in Jakarta and we travelled to Christmas Island by boat.  It was very hard.  We spent four days on the sea,” says Mr Hassen.              

A NEW DETERRENT 

Berhane is an Eritrean refugee who still lives in Sudan. He recently cancelled a plan to try go get to Australia after hearing of new asylum policies to resettle refugees in neighbouring countries.

 

“I emailed my friends in Australia to find out if it is true that people can enter to Australia through Indonesia. Then after a while, they told me that there is a new policy, even if I go to Australia the government will not resettle me in Australia. Then I asked the smugglers and they told me not to believe the new policy because the government always says the same thing but they will not do what they say.  But my family also did not support the plan and I cancelled it.”

 

Soccer club launches game for young fans

Tottenham Hotspur have become the first football club to develop a digital interactive game for children.

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Tottenham have a strong worldwide following and they are now looking to broaden that fan-base with the launch of a game called Tottenham Turfies.

The north London club say the free game is the world’s first “fully-interactive digital experience for children to be created and developed by a football club.”

Young fans under the age of 10 can create their own avatars and take part in games such as Topsy Turfie and Training Run with fellow supporters to earn virtual coins.

Those coins can then be exchanged for virtual and real-life prizes, such as tickets to open training sessions and stadium tours.

Spurs, who finished fifth in the Premier League last season, have sought to protect the young online players by not including a chat facility on the game. Players must also register their parents’ email address so they have a copy of their child’s log-on and password.

Tottenham head of marketing Emma Taylor said the club had made a “significant financial investment” to come up with the game, which went live at 10:30 local time this morning via the club’s website.

Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe, who has trialled the new game, said: “When I was a young boy, we had football stickers to swap in the playground, but I would have loved to have been able to play against my friends online and create my own ‘Turfie’.

“Tottenham Turfies takes things to a new level and it’s a great way for kids to have fun and get into football from an early age.”

Digital agency Hangar Seven, who have worked on projects for CBBC, Disney, Cartoon Network and Lego, developed the game.

Brazil protests grow

The protesters are angry about the high cost of hosting next year’s football World Cup, arguing the money should be spent on improving public services.

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Brianna Roberts reports.

 

What started out as a small protest over train and bus fares has quickly become a national movement in Brazil.

 

The demonstrations began in response to a modest increase to public transport fares, amounting to about 20 centavos, or 10 cents Australian.

 

Two major cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, have now reversed the price hikes, but protesters say the movement has grown well beyond its initial aim.

 

“Everybody is fed up with how the authorities are dealing with our interests and (those of) most of the population, not only the interests of businessmen and contractors or stuff like that.”

 

By early this week, the protesters numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

 

The list of grievances has also grown longer, including funding for public services, perceived police violence and government corruption.

 

As the Confederations Cup – a practice run for next year’s World Cup – kicked off, protesters said the money spent on stadiums should go towards hospitals and schools.

 

One 80-year-old demonstrator, Jose De Freitas, says the nation’s discontent has been growing for a long time.

 

“We took a long time to wake up. What we have there is a fake democracy, it isn’t democracy. We fought against the political dictatorship, and now we are fighting against a monopolistic dictatorship.”

 

Tensions have escalated further after police used rubber bullets and tear gas last week to disperse crowds in the city of Fortaleza.

 

At least a hundred people were injured and 120 arrested, leading to complaints of brutality and an attempt to stop the media from covering the event.

 

Amid the protests, violence and looting has also broken out, with a group of rioters setting fire to a television van and pelting police with rocks.

 

At a media briefing held by football’s governing body, FIFA, Brazil’s deputy minister of communication, Cesar Alvarez, expressed dismay that some protests had become violent.

 

“We cannot let a small number of vandals disrupt the legitimate and democratic protests of a diverse country for people, this is certain. And this means, also, that we have to keep public order and safety for the public and private people and (have to) guarantee means of communication such as the right of circulation and so don’t want to see media buses attacked and, even less, public buses.”

 

A survey of demonstrators in Sao Paulo earlier this week highlighted the movement’s mixed motives.

 

Of those surveyed, one in four people said they were protesting against politicians, among other reasons.

 

More than half listed bus fares, 40 per cent named corruption, and more than 30 per cent spoke of police oppression.

 

The movement may not be united behind a single cause, but this protester says he believes the demonstrations are an expression of widespread discontent.

 

“It is a cry from society against the corruption that is messing up the country. I recognise that some of the ideas from parts of the protesters are erroneous. I don’t support 100 per cent of it, but I think that, in some way, society has become tired and is now speaking up.”

 

The protests have attracted international attention.

 

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged Brazilian authorities to show restraint in handling the protesters.

Indian train kills 37 people, sparks riot

An express train has ploughed into a crowd of Hindu pilgrims in eastern India, killing 37 and triggering a riot that’s left one of the drivers dead and carriages ablaze.

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The pilgrims were crossing the tracks at a station in the state of Bihar when the high-speed passenger train struck them, a senior police officer said.

“The death toll is now 37,” SK Bharadwaj, an additional director general of police, said.

Nine women and four children are among the dead.

“Dozens of people have been injured. We do not have exact figures of those injured because they were taken away to various hospitals,” he said.

Angry crowds went on the rampage, attacking the Rajya Rani Express which stopped after the accident. They attacked its drivers, killing one and seriously injuring another.

“One of the drivers of the train who was beaten up by the agitators has died. The other driver is struggling for his life in the hospital,” Bharadwaj said.

The crowd also set carriages on fire and ransacked the station in the small town of Dhamara Ghat, 248km from the state capital Patna.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “expressed deep sorrow and shock at the loss of lives” and appealed for calm.

Suman Kumar Jha, a college student on board the express when it rammed into the pilgrims, said he was “numbed” to see “so much blood all around”.

Bodies were placed in a line alongside the tracks, their faces covered by articles of clothing, as passengers gathered nearby.

Fire and smoke was also seen on TV billowing from carriages and windows smashed.

There are hundreds of accidents on the railways annually.

Besieged Bombers don’t faze AFL Eagles

The stage is perfectly set for a Bombers backlash, but West Coast coach John Worsfold says his team won’t be affected by the crisis gripping Essendon any more than Australia’s Ashes woes.

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The Eagles were on the receiving end of a galvanised Bombers outfit when the two teams last met in round 14.

Essendon entered that match under extreme scrutiny following the stunning admission from skipper Jobe Watson that he believed he had taken the banned substance AOD-9604.

The outside scrutiny seemed to unite Essendon’s players, and Watson was particularly inspirational with 29 possessions and two goals as the Bombers came from behind in the dying minutes to snatch a seven-point win.

The build-up to Sunday’s re-match at Etihad Stadium is eerily similar, but this time it’s coach James Hird under the pump.

Essendon’s golden boy is under immense pressure to step down following explosive allegations from the club’s former high performance manager Dean Robinson that Hird was the driving force behind the suspect supplements program.

The off-field drama seems to have finally caught up with the Bombers, who have suffered big losses to Hawthorn and Collingwood over the past fortnight.

But with the pressure at its most intense, Essendon players are desperate to bounce back to winning form in a show of faith to Hird.

West Coast need to win Sunday’s encounter in order to keep their slim finals hopes alive, and Worsfold says his team can’t afford to worry about whether Essendon will be more fired up than usual.

“Our preparation is around just going out and playing good footy. Nothing should change our attitude to going out there to play,” Worsfold said on Wednesday.

“Just because England retained the Ashes, it’s not going to put us off. We’re going to stay focused.”

West Coast could welcome back a host of stars this week, with Matt Priddis (quad), Matt Rosa (back), Daniel Kerr (knee), Mark LeCras (foot) and Chris Masten (ankle) all a chance to return.

All-Australian ruckman Nic Naitanui will miss at least another week as he builds up more match fitness, while Luke Shuey (hamstring) isn’t available just yet.

Mickle thrilled with javelin silver

Beaming fit to burst and booming for all she was worth, Kim Mickle produced the performance of her life to finish second in the women’s javelin at the world athletics championships.

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Mickle already had the silver medal in her keeping when she stepped up for her final throw at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday night, courtesy of a 66.25m personal best in the second round.

And after a hug from teammate Kathryn Mitchell – who finished a creditable fifth – Mickle pumped out another PB of 66.60m with a huge smile on her face.

It was 20cm short of Louise McPaul-Currey’s 13-year-old national record. But that can wait for another day.

This was about redemption for her qualifying-round flop at last year’s London Olympics.

Not to mention vindication of her “boom tactic” which involves throwing the javelin as far as possible without thinking about it.

“The boom tactic came out – which was always going to be a hit and miss sort of thing,” said the 28-year-old Mickle.

“The Russian (crowd) all got behind me on that last throw and I boomed the hell out of it.

“When I do go for it, that’s when my consistency tends to go out the window.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better and I honestly feel there is more there.

“It’s such an exciting time for me.”

Mickle bettered her PB three times in the space of three days in Moscow, having also thrown 65.73m in the qualifying round.

It was Mitchell who landed the first blow for Australia in Sunday’s final, throwing a season’s best of 63.77m in the opening round.

Mickle opened with a moderate effort of 60.43m.

The West Australian briefly moved into top spot with her 66.25m second-round effort, only to be overtaken minutes later by Germany’s Christina Obergfoll with what turned out to be the gold-medal effort of 69.05m.

“My first throw was not great so I tried to have another feeler and then activate the old boom,” said Mickle.

“It came in the second instead of the third because my first one scared the hell out of me.

“It was amazing out there. I enjoyed every moment of it.

“It was the scariest and funniest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

The bronze went to reigning Olympic champion Maria Abakumova from Russia with 65.09m.

Obergfoll finally claimed her first major title, having previously finished second and third at the Olympics and runner-up at the 2005 and 2007 world championships.

After undergoing ankle surgery in February, Mitchell was proud to finish fifth, which ensured Australia placed two female athletes in the top five of the same event at a world titles for the first time.

“A little bit further would have been great but, with my technique, that is where I’m at,” said the Victorian.

“It was great to get one out.

“A season’s best was the target for the final as well so I have really ticked every box.

“There was nothing more I could have done.”

Coalition outlines tougher asylum seeker policy

The federal Coalition says if it wins the election the 30,000 asylum seekers already in Australia after arriving by boat would never be allowed permanent settlement visas and would be stripped of the right to appeal to the courts.

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Opposition leader Tony Abbott has announced another toughening of the Coalition’s asylum policy saying permanent residency for people arriving by boat will become a thing of the past.

 

Under the Coalition’s plan, those asylum seekers would have their processing fast-tracked and if found to be genuine refugees they would be offered Temporary Protection Visas not permanent residency.

 

TPVs would be valid for three years, and a Coalition government would not guarantee to renew them.

The Coalition says people on TPVs would not be eligible for citizenship.

 

Mr Abbott says the tough plans are needed to stop the arrival of asylum seeker boats.

 

“We will discharge our ordinary humanitarian obligations to you but you just should not expect to get permanent residency. If you are found not to be a refugee, you will be in detention. That’s where you’ll be you’ll be in detention indefinitely. If you are a refugee you will be on a Temporray Protection Visa. Because we have got to send the strongest possible signal, the stongest possible signal to people smugglers and their clients that we are in charge of this country and we will determine who comes here. That is the signal we are sending.”

 

As part of the tougher policy, the Coalition says it would to scrap the Refugee Review Tribunal and replace it with asylum assesments conducted by Immigration Department caseworkers.

 

Mr Abbott says asylum seekers whose claims were denied would be removed from Australia – by force if necessary.

 

Asylum seekers from countries which refuse to accept involuntary returns could be left on Christmas Island indefinitely.

 

Mr Abbott says asylum seekers’ rights would still be protected.

 

“Even under our system there’s the assesment, then there’s a second assessment, then there’s a review. So it’s not lightly done. There’s the assesment, there’s if you like a check of the assesment, quality control of the assesment, and then there’s a review. So I am very confident we will get this as right as it can be.”

 

Mr Abbott says asylum seekers who arrive in Australia without paperwork would be rejected straight away as refugees if it was found they had deliberately thrown their identification out.

 

Treasurer Chris Bowen says he has his doubts about the policy.

 

“This is I think the Liberal party pretty desperately trying to get this issue back on the agenda because we have the Papua New Guinea plan in place and it is starting to have some effect. It will take time to have its full effect. Also I see Mr Abbott promising to remove rights of appeal to courts. Well, that’s something that I think will be very, very difficult for him to implement and I am not sure this policy has been thought out properly.”

 

Greens Immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the plan is another step in the wrong direction.

 

She says a tougher coalition policy on asylum seekers is another example of what she calls the Coalition’s appalling approach to asylum seekers.

 

And Senator Hanson-Young says it would be very costly.

 

“It is shameful. It is cruel. And it is going to cost the Australian taxpayer hundreds of millions and billions of dollars keeping refugees and asylum seekers locked up in indefinite detention is not just damaging to them and their mental healthy, not just cruel, but is going to cost the Australian taxpayer.”

 

The Coalition says it would also scrap plans for an asylums seeker detention centre at Singleton in the New South Wales Hunter Valley.

 

The Coalition says the $60-million earmarked to build the centre would be used to build the two-thousand extra places it has promised for processing in Nauru while Australia searched for third country resettlement options.

 

More than 2,000 asylum seekers have arrived on boats in the month since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his Papua New Guinea solution.

 

So far, only a few hundred have been sent to Manus Island under the Labor policy that states they will never be allowed to be resettled in Australia.

 

Has inflation gone bananas?

The headline rate for the March quarter rose 1.

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6%.

The biggest contributors for the three months were vegetables (+16.0%), fruit (+14.5%), pharmaceuticals (+12.5%) and petrol (+8.8%)

Most of these were a direct consequence of the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi.

Infact, the Bureau of Statistics says banana prices are up 100% in the three months the March.

The tensions in Northern Africa and the Middle-East as reported in detail on SBS World News Australia, obviously influenced petrol prices.

As a result, the headline annual rate of inflation blew out to 3.3%. The Reserve Bank likes to keep CPI between 2-3%

Generally, higher inflation means higher interest rates.

But here’s the thing. The RBA already warned that it would look through these top line numbers because of these one-off events.

Instead it prefers the underlying rate of inflation that strips out large variables like food and petrol, which can often skew the inflation result.

For the quarter, the rate came in at +0.85% and for the year 2.25%, within the RBA’s band.

So, the RBA is not expected to fire on interest rates just yet. But it will be keeping a very close eye on inflation in the future.

Our economy is expected to speed up in the second half of the year, as commodity prices strengthen and the rebuilding efforts post- Queensland disasters add to GDP. Furthermore, wage price pressures are predicted to emerge, and that will add to inflation.

It’s then when we’ll start to see the RBA lift the lid on interest rates, with many economists expecting the first rate rise to come in August.

Incidentally, the CPI result saw the Australian dollar surge once again to post- float highs – approaching US$1.09.

Maybe it’s time for a banana smoothie on the beaches of Miami?

Rudd dumps ALP candidate for Hotham

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has dumped the ALP’s candidate for the safe Labor Victorian seat of Hotham following claims of misconduct several years ago, while another candidate has quit the campaign after a racism row.

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Geoff Lake was forced again to apologise for abusing a fellow councillor during a meeting of Monash City Council in 2002.

Details of a sexual harassment claim from the time, reportedly being shopped around by his own party colleagues, say he called Liberal councillor Kathy Magee a “f…ing bitch” and a “f…ing slut”.

Mr Lake told News Corp newspapers he had apologised several times to Ms Magee and was still remorseful.

Labor ministers including Mark Dreyfus and Tanya Plibersek defended Mr Lake on Saturday, saying it was a long time ago, when he was 22, and he had apologised many times.

However, late on Saturday, Mr Rudd issued a statement saying the party had removed Mr Lake’s endorsement following a report by Labor’s national secretary George Wright into misconduct claims.

“The national secretary has informed me that he is not satisfied that there has been full disclosure about these previous matters,” Mr Rudd said.

“Based on the investigation, I have concluded that it is inappropriate for Mr Lake to continue as the endorsed Labor candidate for Hotham.”

He said he would ask the national executive to preselect a new candidate for the Hotham.

Meanwhile, Labor candidate for Kennedy, Ken Robertson, has resigned after reportedly calling Tony Abbott a bigot, Sky News says.

“I hope Australia never has to suffer his Catholicism and the things that he’s doing personally, because I think he’s a very, very bigoted person,” Mr Robertson reportedly said.

“He’d have the White Australia policy back in a flash, if he could.”

Earlier on Saturday, the coalition said Mr Rudd’s sincerity about party reform would be tested by what action he takes against the two Labor candidates.

Shadow attorney-general George Brandis said the two reports of “serious misconduct” posed a test for Mr Rudd.

He linked it to Thursday’s announcement Labor was dumping its candidate for Forde, Des Hardman, in favour of former Queensland premier Peter Beattie.

“If Mr Rudd is willing ruthlessly to sack a candidate who is innocent of any wrongdoing, what leadership will he show, what action will he take against these two candidates … who have in different ways disgraced themselves?” he asked reporters in Brisbane,” Senator Brandis said.

“If Mr Rudd stands by these candidate, while dismissing poor old Mr Hardman in Forde as part of his political chess game, then the Australian people will make their own judgments about Mr Rudd’s personal standards and they’ll make their own judgment about Mr Rudd’s hypocrisy.”

One Nation candidate Stephanie Banister, who was ridiculed after referring to Islam as a country in a television interview, has also withdrawn from the election campaign.

A Super 18 on the cards from 2016

Super Rugby chiefs are seriously considering splitting the current three-conference system into two from 2016 and adding two teams from Argentina.

南宁桑拿

Under a possible Super 18 model which appears the most logical future competition, Australian and New Zealand sides would join together in their own conference while South Africa would combine with Argentina.

Leading officials also say there’s the possibility of Japanese teams being added in three years’ time, but there’s plenty of work to be done.

One thing’s for certain: Super Rugby expansion will occur after the 2015 World Cup with governing body SANZAR committed to ensuring the recently-relegated Southern Kings will be one of six South African teams.

While SANZAR, which aims to finalise its next model by the end of the year, has a lot to consider before deciding upon its preferred model, the three-conference system looks to be coming towards an end.

SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said the time-frame for the competition – currently played over 21 weeks, including three weeks for play-offs – could not be extended.

That makes it virtually impossible to keep the current structure if new teams are added as all three national unions want their local derby matches to played at home and away.

With the rigours of travel to and from South Africa combining to make player welfare a bigger issue, the simplest solution is for a two-conference split.

That would see the five Australian teams play each other twice and the five Kiwi sides once for 13 matches before both conferences came together in a six or eight-team finals series.

ARU boss Bill Pulver, who is also on SANZAR’s executive committee, said the ARU hadn’t decided on its preferred model but stressed the five Australian teams would remain.

“We’re trying to keep a very open mind to what this structure looks like,” he said in Sydney.

It’s more likely two new Argentinian teams, rather than one, would be added to what would become an eight-team South African/American conference.

It would allow all teams to play home and away over 14 rounds.

The heavy political pressure for South Africa to have six teams only intensified with the Port Elizabeth-based Kings losing a tightly-fought two-match relegation play-off with the Johannesburg-based Lions last weekend.

“We really understand the desire for that from South Africa,” Peters told AAP. “The Kings have 32 per cent of the playing population and 72 per cent of that is coloured,” Peters said.

“We understand the need for six teams in South Africa.”

While there’s massive commercial benefits with the inclusion of Japan before it hosts the 2019 World Cup, there’s logistical problems in fitting them into the Australasian conference.

SANZAR and the ARU are both pushing for the June international window to be moved to July to ensure Super Rugby can be played in one complete block instead of being interrupted for Test matches before the play-offs.