All eyes on Lew ahead of DJs vote

If all goes to plan, David Jones, Australia’s oldest department store, will shift into foreign hands on Monday.

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The sale to South Africa’s Woolworths Holdings is widely expected to win approval at an extraordinary general meeting in Sydney, but nervousness exists in some quarters surrounding the intentions of retail magnate Solomon Lew.

Lew has bought up a 9.9 per cent stake in the company – theoretically enough to block the takeover in certain scenarios – as part of a 17-year feud with Woolworths over fashion retailer Country Road.

Woolworths beat Lew in a takeover battle for Country Road in 1998, but he has retained his 11.88 per cent stake ever since, apparently agitating the South African retailer to buy him out at a premium along the way.

His foray into the DJ’s takeover appears to have been enough to extract his ransom, with Woolworths offering to buy his stake for $17 per share – a $200 million pay day, not including the small benefit he’ll receive for his DJs holding.

It all sounds like a big win for Lew, but the retail mogul has remained quiet on the offer and that has some wondering what he’s planning.

“It’s all a bit of a mystery as to what Solomon Lew is going to do,” OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun says.

The takeover proposal needs the support of 75 per cent of shareholders at Monday’s meeting, a threshold it should pass given the wide support among investors for the $4 per share offer.

But given a large number of retail shareholders are unlikely to cast their votes, Lew’s stake, plus maybe a few extras, could technically be enough to block the bid.

Mr Le Brun says that would be a disaster for David Jones shareholders, with the company’s share price likely to fall back towards $3 per share.

But Lew would be the biggest loser of all – save perhaps Woolworths’ boss Ian Moir – stuck with his Country Road holding and suffering a loss on his DJs shares to boot.

So the most likely outcome is for the takeover to go ahead, though we’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.

“I think all things being equal he should vote with it but who knows, he might have an ace up the sleave yet and the fact he hasn’t said anything just adds an element of uncertainty.

“Until the meeting we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

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‘Fireball’ dazzles Aussie sky watchers

The scientific community is sounding concensus that the object was a Russian rocket re-entering the atmosphere after launching a Russian meteorology satellite earlier this week.

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Professor Brian Schmidt, a Nobel Prize recipient and astronomer at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University, immediately tweeted that the object was likely to be space junk. 

So our fireball may well have been a piece of space junk. Obj 40077 see 南宁桑拿网,南宁夜生活,/cR5pL9ecR7

— Brian Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) July 10, 2014

And later: 

I believe this is the satellite whose 3rd stage came to ground last night 南宁桑拿网,南宁夜生活,/QoUoB5Tizq

— Brian Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) July 10, 2014

The Sydney Observatory cited Professor Schmidt in its Twitter feed :

@AAOastro @sydneyobs Pretty sure it was Meteor #2 stage 2 deorbitting.

— Brian Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) July 10, 2014

An astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Jonathan McDowell, has tweeted a statement that the object is confirmed to be a Soyuz rocket stage.

Australian fireball: US @SpaceTrackOrg [corrected] confirms reentry of Soyuz rocket stage 40077 at 1142 GMT+/- 1 min over 35S 146E

— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) July 10, 2014

Although NASA issued an alert on Thursday saying a seven-metre, three-tonne, cylindrical object would plunge to Earth over Victoria and Tasmania, the agency has not yet made a statement. 

Airservices Australia spokesman Paul Sadler told the ABC, “It’s understood there were a number of triple-zero calls to emergency services possibly reporting a plane in trouble but that certainly wasn’t the case.” 

Lisa Gent, who saw the object just before 10pm while driving in Diamond Creek in outer north-eastern Melbourne, said, “It was an amazing bright light with a really long, white tail with flecks of red. It was just amazing.

“It looked like absolutely nothing I had ever seen. Quite scary once we knew it was something like we had never seen before.”

Witnesses were dazzled in three states, with residents of Melbourne and Gippsland in Victoria and Burnie in northern Tasmania, expressing awe at the bright object.

Here’s the observations of tonight’s space junk #fireball over eastern Australia @TiffanyDay @astroduff @geoffnotkin pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/0t91pm5ZPb

— David Finlay (@ClearSkiesTV) July 10, 2014

Meisha Hawkins, in Upper Burnie, Tasmania, said “I thought it must have been real close but clearly it was big and bright and even had a tail like on the movies,” she said.

Lisa Rochfort Demsey of Langwarrin, in Melbourne’s southeast, said her husband Glen saw the meteorite as he took his bins out. 

“He saw a massive shooting white star moving south to north with what looked like sparks trailling off its long, white tail. Then he lost sight of it. All up it took about six seconds,” she said.

Just saw a #meteor over North #Melbourne! pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/NhFEdwdSAK

— Nathalie J. Berger (@najube) July 10, 2014

Residents of Cobar, in western NSW, heard a sonic boom after a five minute delay, which reportedly indicates that the object disintegrated within 100 kilometres of the town.

Remarkably consistent reports from Hobart, Sydney, Parkes. Latest analysis: likely a fireball as travellling wrong direction for space junk.

— Sydney Observatory (@sydneyobs) July 10, 2014

Did you spot the unusual light? Tweet us your photos at @sbsnews

with AAP

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People smugglers ‘even more dishonest’

People smugglers are resorting to even greater duplicity to snare paying passengers.

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One asylum seeker who wanted to go to New Zealand was told he’d reached Australia – after their boat ran aground in Indonesia.

People smugglers are adaptive and resilient criminals who would exploit any easing of Australian border security measures to resume their trade, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, head of Operation Sovereign Borders, warned a Senate committee.

He said smugglers used to be able to tell clients “give me all your money and I will get you to Australia” but that is no longer the case.

“Smugglers are being forced to resort to even greater depths of dishonesty in their struggle to remain in business,” he told the committee on Friday.

General Campbell told of a man apprehended in Indonesia after a smuggler promised to get him to New Zealand.

“When their boat ran aground, the client was told they had arrived in Australia. In reality they had merely come ashore elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago,” he told the inquiry.

General Campbell said it was now six months since a people smuggling venture reached Australia and no ventures had departed Indonesia since early May. There had been no known deaths at sea since December 9.

“From mid-December 2013 as an additional measure we have turned back boats where it is safe to do so,” he said.

The committee is seeking information about the unrest in February at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

But Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young also wanted to know about 153 asylum seekers who are aboard an Australian Customs vessel in the Indian Ocean after being intercepted en route to Australia.

She found it “extraordinary” the general had not mentioned this incident in his opening statement to the committee.

“Ultimately the buck stops with you … these are surely issues that are at the top of your mind at the moment,” she said.

General Campbell said it would be inappropriate to comment on matters now before the High Court.

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Australia tops recreational drug use: UN

Australia’s use of recreational drugs has reached an all-time high, according to a new UN report, with the country leading the way when it comes to ecstasy consumption.

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New statistics by the UN 2014 World Drug Report, showed that the consumption of Australia’s recreational drugs such as cannabis and cocaine has increased.

Surprisingly, although Australians lead the way in ecstasy use, the consumption of this recreational drug is declining.

“In Australia, expert opinion points to an increase in the consumption of cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens, and solvents and inhalants, but a decline in the use of ecstasy,” the report stated.

“There is a wide range of drug analogues and new psychoactive substances that are currently available in the Australian illicit drug market.”

Australia is third in methamphetamines, fourth for cocaine use, and seventh for cannabis.

But it’s not just illegal drugs that are popular.

The UN report also showed a rise in demand for prescription pain killers such as codeine and morphine.

“Many countries have expressed concern about misuse, and available data show a high prevalence of misuse of prescription opioids in some countries,” the report said.

“This includes the high-income countries, such as Australia, Canada and the United States that have high per capita consumption of opioids for medical purposes.”

Geoff Munroe from the Australian Drug Foundation says the misuse of prescription painkillers is one of the most serious drug-related issues in Australia.  “Pharmeceutical drugs and pharmeceutical overdoses are now rivalling the road-toll in States like Victoria – so more people are dying overdosing on pain management drugs than are dying on our roads.”

Interestingly, the increase in prescription opioid use meant that heroin dropped. The report suggested that users “resorted to prescription opioids as a substitute” and a “cheaper alternative” to the costly imported heroin.

The penalities for trafficking prescription medication is also less than for an illicit drug. 

Independent Senator Nick Xenephon says the governement should consider mandatory rehablitation such as the program adopted in Sweden, or Australia’s drug problem will worsen. 

“It’s ease of availability it’s lack of having comprehensive rehabilitation and when people who get caught for trafficing get let off with fines then you know there’s something wrong with the system.”

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Pine Creek in NT fears life without mine

The small Northern Territory community of Pine Creek fears for its future after indications its biggest employer, the Frances Creek iron ore mine, will close.

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The 600-odd residents of the town, about 200km south of Darwin, are heavily dependent on the 320 jobs generated by the mine, but many are due to be cut by the end of the year.

“It’s sad that the mine is finishing, but I think it went longer than anyone was expecting,” Victoria Daly Council board member Gaye Lawrence told AAP on Thursday.

“(But) blind Freddy could see the price of ore is dropping.”

She was unable to attend a town meeting on the subject last week but says the community is abuzz with news that the mine will close.

“I heard the (fly in, fly out) workers are finishing up, but that anyone who lives locally and isn’t a cost to the mine because they don’t live in the camp would stay on stockpiling ore until December and then it was going to be mothballed,” she said.

A resident who declined to be named said she had heard up to 60 per cent of workers would go.

“Nobody knows much … not even the miners know,” she said.

AAP understands the mine has not yet made any formal announcement to the NT government, and is operating at regular capacity.

Mine operator Territory Iron has declined to comment, but in last week’s issue of the Pine Creek community newsletter stated that production and processing of shippable ore had been reduced in June due to the challenges of accessing proposed satellite pits at its Elizabeth Marion mine.

It said the proposed approval for mining at that site would require an unexpected and extensive environmental impact statement before work could start.

This would begin immediately but would not be completed until mid- to late 2015, while iron ore prices also remained down 30 per cent on what was projected for the year.

“Rest assured our international teams are working … hard to maintain their investment in the region,” it said.

Ms Lawrence said the FIFO workers did not contribute much to the town’s economy because they lived on site, but small contractors had distributed money with local businesses.

The town was a good place to retire but would struggle to attract young people due to a lack of work opportunities, but it would turn to tourism and not go under, she said.

“Pine Creek is a mining town. It’s been hard for a long time and the whole town fluctuates with mining,” Ms Lawrence said.

“The town will always survive.”

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War Memorial shoots down calls for Indigenous memorial

 

Veterans push PM for Indigenous war memorial

The Australian War Memorial (AWM) has rejected calls during NAIDOC Week for a separate memorial to mark the sacrifices made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait service men and women.

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NAIDOC committee co-chair Anne Martin and the AWM’s indigenous liaison officer Gary Oakley earlier this week said it was time for a national indigenous memorial.

 

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is ‘Serving Country: Centenary and Beyond’, coinciding with the start of the First World War.

 

Thousands of indigenous men and women have served since the 1860s and hundreds have died fighting for Australia.

 

“A memorial that specifically separates indigenous service from non-indigenous service would not be supported at the Australian War Memorial,” said AWM director Dr Brendan Nelson in a statement to SBS.

 

“However, as I have said on previous occasions, a memorial illustrating the service of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians alongside one another on the grounds of the AWM would be strongly supported by me.”

 

Dr Nelson said the AWM is not campaigning for the commissioning and construction of a dedicated indigenous war memorial in Canberra.

 

Federal Veterans’ Affairs minister Senator Michael Ronaldson in a statement to SBS said a proposal for such a memorial needs to be a community driven.​

 

AWM’s Indigenous liaison officer told SBS earlier this week there was mounting evidence of the contribution of indigenous Australians.

 

“Everybody thought there was not enough for us to talk about but now that research has been done in the last 10 years, it’s not just one or two indigenous Australians who served, it’s literally thousands, so the time is right to push for a national memorial,” said Gary Oakley.

 

The co-chair of the National NAIDOC Committee, that sits within the responsibility of the prime minister’s office, agreed.

 

“I think it’s time that we all step forward as a nation and redress this. It’s a great opportunity and I would call upon the Australian government to take this into consideration,” said Anne Martin.

 

“I would say Prime Minister Abbott, I would like you to take this into consideration.”

 

The principle of erecting war memorials to indigenous service personnel has been established with the Commonwealth funding Australia’s first in Adelaide last year with a $143,000 grant.

 

Another is planned for Hyde Park South in Sydney and the Queensland government is expected to announce next month it will erect one in Brisbane’s ANZAC Square.

 

Approval for national memorials is the responsibility of the National Capital Memorial Committee, which is chaired by prime minister Tony Abbott.

 

Dr Nelson said the prime minister is not directly responsible for the installation of such a memorial and the AWM is not calling on him to approve or authorise any specific memorial, whether it be for an individual or a group.

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Cost of living drops in Australia, but locals don’t reap the benefits

Australian cities have fallen in rank in a cost of living survey, making them more attractive to expats and global companies.

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But local rental markets in Sydney and Melbourne show residents are still struggling to break into the property market.

The 2014 Mercer Cost of Living Survey shows Sydney has dropped from a ranking of 9 in 2013 to 26 in 2014.

Melbourne dropped from 16 to 33, with Brisbane and Canberra falling outside the top 50.

The Mercer survey covers 211 cities across five continents, measuring the comparitive cost of housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.

Changes in the value of the Australian dollar against the US dollar have been credited for the drop in the rankings.

However, the results of the survey do not mean that Australian cities have become cheaper for Australians.

“It does mean that in relative terms our Australian cities have become more cost competitive locations for companies to relocate expatriates too,” Mercer’s Garry Adams told SBS.

“So the business case to put those people in Australia has strengthened this year as our costs have come down.”

Australian cities have been driven down the list due to the strengthening of the Chinese Yuan and currencies in Western Europe against the US dollar.

Rankings in some regions were impacted by recent world events and political and economic upheaval.

The most expensive cities, Luanda and N’Djamena are relatively inexpensive cities, but are quite costly for expatriates as imported goods come at a premium.

Rent rises in Sydney and Melbourne

A quarterly report from Australian Property Monitors shows that asking rents in Melbourne and Sydney have increased, while other capital city markets remained subdued.

Nationally, rental growth for units is outperforming houses in most capital cities.

“I think there’s an affordability issue at play here,” Andrew Wilson, Senior Economist at Australian Property Monitors told SBS.

“I think those 500 dollar a week rents we had for houses in Sydney for quite a while reflected that ceiling that incomes couldn’t match the asking price for rents.”

In Melbourne unit rents increased to a median of $370 per week with median asking house rents remaining flat at $380 per week.

In Sydney, unit rents have reached a peak of $500 per week.

Hobart also experienced strong growth in unit rentals but house rents remained flat in the city.

All other capitals saw flat or declining rents for houses and units.

Mercer Cost of Living Survey- Worldwide Rankings 2014

(Click image to enlarge)

 

Most expensive

    Luanda, AngolaN’Djamena, ChadHong Kong, Hong KongSingapore, SingaporeZurich, SwitzerlandGeneva, SwitzerlandTokyo, JapanMoscow, RussiaShanghai, ChinaBeijing, China

Least expensive

    Karachi, PakistanWindhoek, NamibiaBishkek, KyrgyzstanIslamabad, PakistanManagua, NicaraguaKolkata, IndiaCape Town, South AfricaLa Paz, BoliviaJohannesburg, South AfricaTunis, Tunisia

 

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McCaw out for Crusaders

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw will miss the Crusaders’ crucial final round Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders in Christchurch on Saturday.

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McCaw has been given another week to recover from a rib injury suffered in last month’s Test series against England.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has made just one change to his team with All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock returning after his late withdrawal due to a calf injury before last week’s 21-13 win over the Blues.

Whitelock’s return means Jimmy Tupou goes back to the bench.

Dan Carter has again been named at inside centre, where he started last week, with Colin Slade at five-eighth.

Seven times Super Rugby champions the Crusaders are already guaranteed a finals spot, but need a bonus point win to clinch the New Zealand conference.

The Waratahs have wrapped up the overall top spot, with the Crusaders second on points differential from the Sharks.

Both teams have amassed 46 points from 18 weeks of competition, and if the Crusaders can maintain their second place, they will proceed directly to a home semi-final.

“That will require us to beat the Highlanders and beat them well,” Blackadder said.

“The Highlanders are also a gutsy side, and we know that they will be putting everything they’ve got into this encounter. We are going to have to put in the performance of the season to come out on top.”

The Crusaders won’t know their fate until after the Stormers-Sharks clash in Cape Town, the last game of the final round of pool play on Sunday morning (AEST).

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Corey Flynn, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Jimmy Tupou, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl.

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Tim Storrier’s portrait of Sir Les wins Archibald Packing Room Prize

The portrait, titled Sir Les, is by 2012 Archibald Prize winner Tim Storrier.

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Dr Sir Leslie Colin Patterson KCB AO is one of comedian Barry Humphries’ favourite characters – and his most politically incorrect.

 

Head storeman Steve Peters, who has the final say with 51 per cent of the vote, delivered his verdict on Thursday at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Never has the Packing Room Prize coincided with the Archibald judges’ decision.

 

“Kiss of death! That’s me,” Mr Peters said.

“But I hope not for Tim’s sake. It’s one of the great mysteries of the world, I’mdumbfounded why they never win.”

Mr Peters said the decision came down to Storrier’s Sir Les and Rodney Pople’s portrait of Mr Humphries, which will hang side by side in the gallery.

In a statement, Sir Les Patterson said he was proud to be in the show.

 

“Thanks to that clever bastard Tim Storrier and his brushwork, generations of young australian art lovers, in particular the nubile members of the opposite sex in the community, will look up to what I have to offer,” he said.

 

“And with any luck, like the eyes of the Mona Lisa, it will follow them around the room.”

There were almost 900 entries this year and Mr Peters reckons the calibre of art is higher than last year.

“I think it’s a better show overall. There’s more finalists, and a lot of small ones this year, so the artists took the hint.”

 

Finalists for the 93rd Archibald Prize were also announced on Thursday.

 

Leading contenders include Tim Maguire’s portrait of actress Cate Blanchett, Alan Jones’ painting of AFL footballer Adam Goodes, Zoe Young’s portrait of snowboarder Torah Bright and Fiona Lowry’s portrait of architect Penelope Seidler.

 

This year is a particularly good one for female artists, with nearly half of the 54 paintings hung in the exhibition by women.

The winner will be announced on July 18 with the exhibition of finalists to go on display from July 19 to September 28 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Full list of finalists can be found here.

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Indonesians choose their next president

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Indonesians have been choosing their next president, from two very different candidates.

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Abby Dinham reports. 

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

One is a former senior military officer, linked to murder, torture and kidnapping, the other a self-made man, who grew up in a riverbank shack, before becoming a businessman and eventually the governor of Jakarta.

The past month of feverish campaigning has featured a Nazi scandal on one side, a candidate having to prove his faith on the other, and a few clues on what Australia can expect from its neighbour over the next five years.

“We promise we will eradicate poverty in Indonesia. And we will eradicate corruption in Indonesia, brothers and sisters.”

That’s Prabowo Subianto an Indonesian businessman, politician and a former Lieutenant-General in the Indonesian National Armed Forces.

He admitted to being part of a kidnapping of 23 anti-government activists in 1998 – under the regime of his then father-in-law, Suharto.

But he claims he only kidnapped those who survived the ordeal not the 14 who didn’t.

He was never charged, and maintains he was acting on orders.

Mugiyanto was one of those kidnapped.

He says he was interrogated and and tortured for two days.

He claims Prabowo was directly involved in the deaths of those who didn’t survive the incident.

“It is difficult for me to imagine that he will be the president. You know, it is difficult. And that is the reason why I work very hard for the last 16 years basically for justice for this person to be held accountable and very intensively, currently, for this person not to be elected.”

Prabowo’s entourage also feature prominent names from Suharto regime, such as Yunus Yosfiah who was the in charge in 1975 on the day that Australian journalists were killed in Balibo in East Timor.

His ex-wife Titiek, Suharto’s daughter, also lent her support.

The editor of the Jakarta Post, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, says any corruption-busting is highly unlikely.

“When you have a coalition where the chairmen of most of the parties there, almost the majority of the party or senior members of the parties there have been indicted for corrupt activities then that’s a good question – how are you going to do that?”

Prabowo’s popularity has grown throughout the presidential race, appealing to voters who want a strong and charismatic leader.

He also blames foreign powers, elite classes and money politics for keeping Indonesia from thriving; despite, however, being a product of the elite himself.

But nothing has slowed Prabowo’s upward march, not even the international outrage that erupted when his rock star supporter Ahmad Dhani appeared in a campaign video wearing Nazi garb.

The other candidate is Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi.

His upbringing was very different from his rival.

Born in a shack on the riverbank, Jokowi graduated from university with a degree in engineering and later became a smalltown furniture seller.

From there, he was elected local governor and then governor of Jakarta, introducing measures such as free healthcare and rebuilding houses and parks to benefit the districts poorest populations.

The Jakarta Post’s Meidyatama Suryodiningrat says his supporters admire his fight against corruption, humble demeanour and ability to get things done against the odds.

“Jokowi is a breath of fresh air. I think the main thing that he does offer is hope. For a clean and better governance and a government that actually executes what it says.”

Mud-slinging from the outset of the campaign has eroded Jokowi’s support.

One tactic has been to plant questions in voters’ minds about whether he really is a Muslim, or a Christian.

This matters in Muslim-majority Indonesia, and when Jokowi campaigns on the slogan “Jokowi adalah kita” – or Jokowi is us – it matters more.

Whoever wins will have the monumental task of repairing strained relations with Australia.

Until last year’s spying scandal and tensions over the Abbott government asylum boat turn-backs, the decade of rule under Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was a period where Indonesia-Australia relations improved.

It’s an area Jokowi addressed in a pre-election debate with Prabowo.

“What is wrong with Indonesia’s relationship with Australia which seems so often to go up and down – and very often to run hot and cold? // “Maybe Australia has a kind of suspicion even phobia, towards us. We have launched military actions several times and maybe they think we are a threat. So in my opinion, it will be our job to convince our friends in Australia that we want to be good neighbours.”

The official vote count in the world’s biggest archipelago nation, which sprawls over three time zones and 17,000 islands, will take some weeks.

 

 

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T-Rex could fill Reynolds’ shoes

Tony Williams could reprise his starring role in the Canterbury halves after five-eighth Josh Reynolds was suspended for three weeks for his State of Origin shoulder charge.

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Reynolds copped a three-match ban for his tackle on Will Chambers in the first half of Origin III on Wednesday.

The NSW five-eighth will sit out Saturday’s round 18 fixture against the Storm in Melbourne after taking the early guilty plea, and matches against Wests Tigers and North Queensland before returning in round 21 against fellow competition leaders Penrith.

Williams starred as a make-shift playmaking option in the Bulldogs last start upset win over Manly in a shrewd coaching move from Des Hasler, with Reynolds and Dogs halfback Trent Hodkinson absent on NSW duty.

It was the Dogs’ first win in three Origin period matches without their representative halves.

Josh Jackson filled the five-eighth role against the Sea Eagles and with boom rookie Moses Mbye still sidelined with an ankle injury he is another option for Hasler in the halves alongside the returning Hodkinson.

Reynolds was one of four players charged from incidents emanating from Queensland’s 32-8 thrashing of NSW at Suncorp Stadium, after the Blues had wrapped up their first series win in nine years three weeks prior.

Blues enforcer Greg Bird is again sidelined due to a dangerous throw. He will sit out two matches for a 59th minute hit on Gold Coast teammate Nate Myles, after taking the early guilty plea.

Bird missed Origin I due to a similar offence.

Maroons interchange back-rower Ben Te’o will sit out South Sydney’s round 19 match with Parramatta for a 23rd minute dangerous contact charge on Blues kicker Hodkinson.

Myles won’t miss a match after taking the early plea for a second half forearm to Bird.

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Mick praises Swans ahead of AFL clash

Veteran AFL coach Mick Malthouse has always loved talking up his team’s underdog status and, this week, he has ample material.

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“Without a doubt, they have the strongest and deepest list I’ve seen in football,” the Carlton coach said of Sydney ahead of their Saturday night clash at the SCG.

“My count is 17 or 18 of their players that aren’t playing would fit comfortably into a lot of teams.”

Sydney are top of the table and, if they beat Carlton, the Swans equal their club record-winning streak of 12.

The Blues, by contrast, are out of finals contention and, last week, ended a five-game losing streak.

“These are the challenges you love as a coach,” Malthouse said.

Malthouse said Sydney had benefited from the controversial cost of living allowance in their player payments, but that alone did not explain their success.

“It’s very good recruiting and I also think, of course, you have an advantage when you have a substantial financial advantage,” he said.

“But you can have a financial advantage and get it wrong.

“Sydney’s recruitment has been very, very astute and very patient.”

Another key for Malthouse is that since Paul Roos’ first full season as coach in 2003, the Swans have finished out of the finals only once.

Like Hawthorn and Geelong, that continual success means Sydney have had the luxury of being more patient with player developments.

“It’s almost a premiership trait or a grand final trait,” he said.

Malthouse is also confident that despite this disappointing season, Carlton are on the right track.

“We’re patient enough to get it right,” he said.

“There are people saying it’s five or six years – that’s rubbish.

“Your side improves very, very quickly if you’re prepared to get it right.

“Don’t panic about the results – just make sure your systems in place are right.”

Meanwhile, Malthouse has warned Carlton veteran Chris Judd not to extend his playing career by one season too many.

Malthouse said it would be Judd’s decision whether he continued beyond this season.

“My advice to all players – go when there’s a little bit left,” Malthouse said.

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‘Appalling and insensible’: China rebukes Abbott for praising Japan’s WWII skills

China’s official news agency has slammed Prime Minister Tony Abbott for praising Japan’s World War II military prowess in his welcome to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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Xinhua believes Mr Abbott’s admiration of Japanese war skills was appalling and “insensible” (sic) to victim countries.

“He probably wasn’t aware that the Japanese troops possessed other ‘skills’, skills to loot, to rape, to torture and to kill. All these had been committed under the name of honour almost 70 years ago,” Xinhua said in a commentary on its website.

The agency is regarded as reflecting the views of China’s government.

This comes amid growing Chinese assertiveness in regional territorial disputes. Japan is also shrugging off the pacifist foreign policy it has had since its defeat in World War II.

More than any other nation, China suffered under Japan’s 14-year military occupation with as many as 20 million dead.

In his address to the parliamentary sitting attended by Mr Abe, Mr Abbott cited the bravery of Japanese submariners killed in the 1942 raid on Sydney harbour.

“We admired the skill and the sense of honour that they brought to their task although we disagreed with what they did. Perhaps we grasped, even then, that with a change of heart the fiercest of opponents could be the best of friends,” Mr Abbott said.

Xinhua said Mr Abbott showed how “insensible” he is towards people who suffered greatly as a result of the “advanced” war skills of Japanese troops and their sense of honour during their aggression.

“While Japan has earned the reputation of a good international citizen, how much does it owe to its pacifist constitution, of which Abe and his cabinet are trying to change by re-interpreting its key article,” it said.

Diggers would disagree

The head of the RSL says many Australian diggers would disagree with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s praise for Japan’s World War II military prowess.

RSL president Rear Admiral Ken Doolan says there are Australian soldiers who fought in World War II who have the view that some Japanese in some instances did not behave with honour.

Admiral Doolan’s told ABC Radio many members of the RSL will disagree with what the Japanese forces did during the Second World War.

Mr Abbott expressed admiration for Japanese submariners killed in an attack on Sydney in a speech to honour the visit of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

PM did not damage China relations: Cormann

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has played down criticism of the speech in which Tony Abbott praised Japanese troops.

Minister Cormann said the prime minister’s speech wasn’t “against anyone” and would not damage relations with China.

“We have an important friendship and an important relationship with Japan and we have an important friendship and an important relationship with China,” he told ABC radio.

“Friendship with one doesn’t exclude friendship with another.”

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