G20 leaders to hit Brisbane en masse

Brisbane will on Friday transform from the laid back capital of Queensland to the temporary home of some of the most powerful people in the world.

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Many of the G20 leaders will jet in throughout the day, including the presidents of China, Indonesia, India and South Korea, the prime ministers of the UK, Canada and Japan, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But it will be the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin that is bound to attract most attention.

His visit is highly contentious due to Russia’s role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July. A total of 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents, were killed in the disaster.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott – who last month said he would “shirtfront” Mr Putin on the MH17 issue – has already had one tense encounter with the Russian leader this week at the APEC summit in Beijing, and another is expected this weekend at the annual G20 summit.

Mr Putin will likely receive a hostile welcome from everyday Australians as well, with at least one anti-Putin protest planned for Saturday.

Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations president Stefan Romaniw has called on other G20 leaders to show their disapproval of Russia’s actions by imposing sanctions on the country and stripping it of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“He needs to be hit hard, to be ostracised in that (G20) meeting and feel the full brunt of the international community,” he said.

More protests are expected as the world media’s attention switches to Brisbane. Several are scheduled for Friday.

Residents are being urged to head into the city over the weekend amid fears the CBD will resemble a ghost town, with a public holiday declared to reduce traffic congestion.

Brisbane City Council’s G20 chair Julian Simmonds encouraged people to visit South Bank, the botanic gardens or the city mall.

“Please don’t sit at home and watch the G20 pass by on the TV,” he said.

As many as 4000 delegates and 3000 reporters from around the globe will attend the gathering, which is costing half a billion dollars.

Queensland Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey says it will generate more than $100 million for Brisbane’s economy.

The last of the leaders arrive on Saturday, with US President Barack Obama and his huge entourage landing early in the morning. The president will deliver a speech at the University of Queensland before joining other G20 leaders.

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Vic murder victim bashed with rifle: court

A man feared murdered was last heard “squealing like a pig” while being bashed with a rifle on a Victorian bridge, a trial has heard.

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Prosecutors allege Mount Gambier men Mark James Moreland, 37, Christopher Nathan Tippens, 30, and 22-year-old Tai Thorp ambushed and killed Gordon Hamm at Nelson, disposed of him in a pine plantation and torched the car they used.

His body has not been found.

The trio has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Hamm on July 17 last year, and while two of them don’t dispute they were on the bridge they maintain he was alive when they last saw him.

Moreland’s barrister Theo Kassimatis said his client was involved in beating up Mr Hamm but did not kill him.

“The last time Mark Moreland had any contact with Mr Hamm, Mr Hamm was alive,” Mr Kassimatis told the trial on Thursday.

Defence barrister Scott Johns said Tippens was also at the bridge and grabbed Mr Hamm but left him alive.

“When Chris Tippens last sees Gordon Hamm, he was alive,” he said.

“No witness will tell you otherwise, no evidence in this trial will satisfy you otherwise.”

Mr Johns said the defence disputed Mr Hamm was killed or fatally wounded at Nelson, as the Crown alleged.

Witness Samantha Porter said she was driving Mr Hamm from Portland in Victoria to Mount Gambier in South Australia when they were stopped on the bridge, blocked at the front and back by two vehicles.

Ms Porter said Moreland, who was holding a gun, and Tippens dragged Mr Hamm out of her car and forced him to his knees before Moreland began hitting him with the butt of the rifle.

“To be honest, he was squealing like a pig or a girl,” she told the Victorian Supreme Court.

Ms Porter said she was on the bridge for about two minutes before driving off.

She said she saw Moreland point the rifle at Mr Hamm as she left but did not hear any shots fired, or see Mr Hamm wounded.

Defence barrister Justin Hennebery said while Thorp’s car was found torched in the pine plantation, he denied murdering Mr Hamm and prosecutors wouldn’t be able to prove otherwise.

Mr Kassimatis told the jury they would hear evidence about drug debts and bikies.

Ms Porter said she and Mr Hamm had smoked ice during the car trip and she understood him to be a drug dealer.

Crown prosecutor Michele Williams QC has told the trial there were a couple of possible motives for the murder, including that the men wanted Mr Hamm’s drugs or cash after he won money on the pokies.

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In-form Pakistan crush New Zealand in opener

New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi (63) showed plenty of resilience to notch his second half century in tests but was the last man to fall, out leg before to paceman Imran Khan.

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Resuming on 174 for eight, New Zealand lost their penultimate wicket when leg-spinner Yasir Shah (3-74) bowled Mark Craig (28) in the second over of the day with a sharply turning delivery.

Sodhi, the highest scorer in New Zealand’s second stint, added 54 runs with Trent Boult (19 not out) for the final wicket to delay Pakistan’s celebrations.

Fresh from inflicting a 2-0 defeat on Australia, Pakistan have continued their dominance against New Zealand, all three wins coming without their two main strike bowlers — banned off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and injured paceman Junaid Khan.

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was well aware of what was in store for the visitors in the remaining tests, with the second match starting in Dubai on Monday.

“Obviously we were clearly second in this test match,” McCullum said at the presentation ceremony. “Spin is a threat but so is reverse swing. The partnerships at the end of our innings gives us confidence for the rest of the series.

“It would be nice if we could win the toss, bat first, and put some scoreboard pressure on Pakistan.”

The victory against New Zealand also made Misbah-ul-Haq the most successful Pakistan captain with 15 wins, ahead of Javed Miandad and Imran Khan on 14.

The winning run has also helped the 40-year-old Misbah, who was panned for a lack of runs, silence his critics.

“It’s a young team, nobody expected us to perform like this,” a relieved Misbah said.

“Sometimes you have to be patient. It was an absolute disaster for me, I didn’t get any runs in Sri Lanka and in the one-day series against Australia, but I kept calm through that.”

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John O’Brien)

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RBA intervention talk sends $A falling

The Australian dollar has stumbled after a central bank official said intervention to lower the currency had not been ruled out.

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The Australian dollar fell from 87.27 US cents to hit a low of 86.73 US cents at 1338 AEDT when RBA assistant governor Christopher Kent said intervention to lower the “too high” exchange rate was still an option.

“We haven’t ruled it out,” Dr Kent told a business lunch on Thursday.

“It’s still there as an option, if needed.”

ANZ economist Felicity Emmett said the comments were “not surprising”.

“We don’t, however, see this as a strong possibility,” she said.

“The RBA has previously highlighted that successful intervention occurs when market dysfunction has removed liquidity or when valuation is at an extreme. We are not at this point now.”

Dr Kent said the currency remained “above most estimates of its fundamental value, particularly given the substantial declines in commodity prices over the course of this year”.

The Australian dollar recovered some ground later on Thursday, lifting back above 87 US cents.

Dr Kent also said measures being considering to curb investor activity in the housing market would be “modest”.

“It’s always possible in any field that you can make policy mistakes,” he said.

“In this case, what has been said quite clearly by APRA (the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) and others in the bank that are experts on this, is that the sorts of steps being considered are modest ones in a direction, a path, that’s already been taken in gradually tightening lending conditions sufficiently.”

Dr Kent also acknowledged recent problems with official labour force figures, and said the RBA was always cautious about reading too much into one particular economic indicator.

Other labour market indicators were suggesting a pickup, he said.

“There are some indications that at least employment and the prospects of future employment have improved, including things like the various measures of job vacancies and job ads, which have turned higher,” he said.

“They’re not particularly strong, but that’s positive and encouraging.”

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Auva’a suspended from the NRL indefinitely

South Sydney centre Kirisome Auva’a has been banned from the NRL for at least nine months, following his domestic violence conviction.

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The NRL said in a statement the grand-final-winning back would not be allowed to return to the game “until he has demonstrated behavioural change designed to prevent the recurrence of violent behaviour toward women.”

Last week Auva’a was found guilty of having assaulted his ex-girlfriend in Melbourne, in January but was spared a conviction.

“Auva’a will be required to complete a secondary prevention counselling program adapted to his particular needs and covering issues including violence against women, alcohol abuse and anger management,” the NRL statement read.

“The NRL will not consider an application from Auva’a to have his suspension lifted for at least nine months. His suitability to return to the game will be determined by an NRL panel which will rigorously review his progress.”

The penalty is a hefty one – meaning he will not be back playing rugby league until at least round 23 of the 2015 season.

Auva’a had pleaded guilty to charges of recklessly causing injury when he went to court last week.

Souths had initially fined him $2000 and suspended him for seven days when made aware of the incident earlier in the year.

The Rabbitohs said in a statement on Thursday they supported the NRL’s stance.

“We will work closely with Kirisome on his rehabilitation, as we have since the incident occurred back in January,” CEO Shane Richardson said.

“As a club we take a very serious view on domestic violence.

“Kirisome has now received punishments from three different bodies and we will continue our duties to ensure he is educated and supported so as to never commit an offence like this again.”

Auva’a had been in Melbourne in January for a wedding when he visited his former partner’s home and shoved her to the ground and then swung her into a garage door when he was told he had to sleep on the couch.

While he pleaded guilty to the charge back in May the incident did not attract a large amount of attention because Auva’a was a fringe player with the club.

But he went on to cement a regular spot in the Rabbitohs’ starting side and was an integral part of their first premiership win in 43 years.

The NRL came under fire in some media circles because of a perceived lack of action over the issue but NRL boss Dave Smith maintained the sport’s governing body was allowing due process and was awaiting the court’s decision before imposing any further penalty.

Smith said in Thursday’s statement that any type of violence against women was simply wrong.

“Let me make it clear we abhor violence against women and it will not be tolerated in our game,” Smith said.

“Everyone needs to understand that if you are violent against women there is no place for you in rugby league.”

Smith added that if Auva’a re-offended he would be banned from the game permanently.

Former NSW winger Blake Ferguson is still waiting to find out whether he will be re-registered by the NRL after being found guilty of groping a woman in 2013.

Ferguson, who also had no conviction recorded, has just been allowed to train with the Sydney Roosters but has not been re-registered by the NRL.

Two years ago Queensland Cowboys halfback Robert Lui was suspended for most of the 2012 season after pleading guilty to the assault of his partner the previous year.

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Sandhu set to face India in tour game

The chance to bowl against India’s best batsmen will be both test and tutorial for highly-rated NSW paceman Gurinder Sandhu.

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Cricket Australia on Thursday named the 12-man squad that will confront the visitors in their tour opener at Adelaide’s Glenelg Oval on November 24-25.

India will tune up for the four-Test series against Australia with a pair of two-day games in South Australia.

Sandhu, set to be squeezed out of NSW’s Sheffield Shield side, will spearhead the developmental XI attack.

“It’ll be a good chance to test myself and see what I can do against some of the best cricketers in the world,” Sandhu told AAP.

“We’ll also all get a bit of an insight into how Virat Kohli and the like go about it. It’s always good to get a small look at those players at the next level.”

The beanpole, born in Sydney’s western suburbs after his parents moved from Punjab in the 1980s, represented Australia A earlier this year.

In 2013 the right-armer won the Steve Waugh medal awarded to NSW cricketer of the year, suggesting he is well placed to stake a claim for higher honours.

For now, Sandhu is more worried about flinging down the leather in Adelaide.

“Their batsmen will be keen to have a hit and get some time out in the middle before the first Test,” the 21-year-old said.

“If we can get a few guys out cheaply, hopefully it can impact their mood a little bit.”

Ashton Turner, a teammate of Sandhu’s at the under-19 World Cup in 2012, will captain the CA XI.

Troy Cooley, head coach at Cricket Australia’s world-class training facility in Brisbane, will mentor the side.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with him a few times at the national cricket centre in winter, so it’ll be good to catch up mid-season,” Sandhu said of Cooley.

NSW pair Josh Lalor and Ryan Carters were also named in the squad.

India are set to arrive in Adelaide on November 21.

CA will name a squad for the second game, to be played at Adelaide Oval on November 28-29, at a later date.

CA XI squad for first tour game: Ashton Turner (capt), Ryan Carters, Alex Gregory, Sam Grimwade, Sebastian Gotch, Josh Lalor, David Moody, Jonte Pattison, Gurinder Sandhu, Matthew Short, Kelvin Smith, Nick Stevens.

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Alleged Serbian war criminal receives hero’s welcome on return home

Hundreds of people have turned out to welcome home the leader of Serbia’s ultra nationalist party, Vojislav Seselj, following his release by a United Nations war crimes court for cancer treatment.

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The ailing leader of the Radical Serb Party was greeted at Belgrade airport by a crowd chanting “Victory”.

 

The 60-year-old had been in detention for nearly 12 years, and had been awaiting a verdict for a string of alleged atrocities during the Balkans wars.

 

He underwent colon cancer surgery in December, but doctors say the cancer has now spread to his liver. Last week the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Netherlands, ordered his temporary release so he could receive further treatment.

 

Addressing jubilant supporters from the balcony of his party’s offices shortly after his arrival home, Mr Seselj labelled the court a “wounded globalist beast” and hit out at Serbia’s leaders, calling them “traitors” and “servants of the West”.

 

“(The judges) say (my release) is temporary. But it will be temporary only until we overthrow from power (President) Tomislav Nikolic and (Prime Minister) Aleksandar Vucic, our renegades and Serbian traitors,” Mr Seselj said.

 

Both men defected from Mr Seselj’s Radical Party in 2008, forming their own party which won the latest Serbian election.

Leader denies warcrimes

Mr Seselj voluntarily surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal in 2003, after he was accused of leading ethnic Serb volunteers in persecuting Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs during the 1990s Balkans conflicts. He went on trial four years later.

 

His trial concluded in 2012, but the court has yet to issue a verdict.

 

At his trial he pleaded not guilty to nine counts including murder, torture, cruel treatment and wanton destruction of villages. Prosecutors said he recruited and indoctrinated volunteers and paramilitaries who committed atrocities.

 

ICTY spokeswoman Magdalena Spalinska said the trial chamber granted his release due to his deteriorating health, saying it would give him the opportunity to get treatment in the “most appropriate conditions”.

 

His release is on condition that he does not interfere with victims or witnesses, and that he returns when summoned.

 

Prosecutors have demanded Mr Seselj receive a 28-year prison sentence but his release has put that in doubt.

Outrage in Bosnia and Croatia

Victims groups in neighbouring Bosnia and Croatia have expressed outrage at Mr Seslj’s release. Ahmed Grahic from the Association of Bosnian Prisoners of War said it had reopened old wounds.

 

“I have twelve wounds that have not healed yet. I have thousands of scars. Now, the Hague tribunal and representatives of the Hague tribunal have opened and cut my wounds again. I am bleeding again,” he said.

 

In the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar, which was overrun by Mr Seselj’s paramilitaries in 1991, resident Blazenka Posavec called for the 60-year-old to be punished.

 

“He should have been persecuted and punished. He was on trial, but there is no conviction. The town of Vukovar can never forgive, can never forget,” she said.

 

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DCE and Cronk ready for Kiwis in league

Cooper Cronk and Daly Cherry-Evans are ready to face the toughest test of their fledgling international halves partnership against New Zealand on Saturday.

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Both Cronk and Cherry-Evans were on Thursday passed fit to play the Kiwis at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, after battling flu earlier in the week.

The illness was a further interruption to the development of their scrumbase combination after coach Tim Sheens was forced to cancel training on Wednesday.

Cherry-Evans limped off with a hip injury before halftime and didn’t return in the Kangaroos 30-12 loss to the Kiwis three weeks ago in his first outing alongside Cronk in the green and gold.

He then only trained sporadically in the lead-up to the win over England two weeks ago due to the complaint.

But since then Cronk and Cherry-Evans have helped to steer Australia into the tournament decider, up against in-form Kiwi halves Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran who have had things their own way for much of the tournament behind the monster New Zealand pack.

“I think Cooper and I have improved together, it is fair to say that,” Cherry-Evans said.

“But for us to think we have got it all down pat and all worked out would be a lie.

“We are still learning each other’s games and we are still trying to feed off each other there on the field.

“I’m definitely feeling more confident there, it is just a natural process that takes place in camp.

“As the weeks go on you build mateship, friendship and combinations – they slowly build and improve.

“Things are getting better with Cooper and I feel I am contributing to the side every game.

“But I would be very disappointed if I didn’t save my best for last.”

With Cronk’s regular halves partner Johnathan Thurston ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury, Manly half Cherry-Evans will face off in a rare opportunity against Sea Eagles five-eighth Kieran Foran.

“We are not going to shut him down, by just me going out and trying to get Kieran,” Cherry-Evans said.

“We have to make sure we put together a great plan to stop Shaun and Kieran this week, they are a huge focal point for their attack.”

Flu-stricken quartet Cronk, Cherry-Evans, Sione Mata’utia and David Klemmer were quarantined on Wednesday, but they all trained strongly on Thursday and will play on Saturday.

Around 200 fans watched the Australians train in the rugby league stronghold of Porirua about 25 kilometres north of the Wellington city centre.

Corey Parker was confident the drama wouldn’t affect Australia’s preparation for the tournament decider.

“It happened to the two playmakers which wasn’t ideal but we will get into training now and knuckle down,” he said.

“It doesn’t change things too much, we have been in camp for a month now and everything is the same, our structures and everything has been in place for a while now.”

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Fast bowler Ryan Harris in race for Tests

Having survived the toughest challenge of his career, courageous paceman Ryan Harris is now caught between conflicting desires in racing the clock to win back his Test place.

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Harris has one, possibly two, Sheffield Shield games for Queensland to regain new-ball duties for Australia’s four-Test series against India, starting December 4 at the Gabba.

Told by national selector Trevor Hohns not to put too much pressure on himself, the 35-year-old also knows he must hit top pace and form to warrant an immediate recall.

Although Australia were wiped 2-0 by Pakistan in the UAE, Harris denied he could walk back into Michael Clarke’s attack by merely proving his fitness following his mentally taxing six-month rehabilitation from knee surgery.

He plainly admits he’s not up to scratch after two club cricket outings and 27 overs (for a match return of 3-91) in the Futures League, where his angst and knee soreness was evident from the boundary fence.

“I wasn’t happy with the way I bowled last week, that’s natural,” the bustling quick said on Thursday. “I always have those dummy spits when I come back from injury.

“The more I bowl the better I get, it just takes time.”

Harris not only wants better consistency, hitting his line and length regularly, but to also push past 140kmh as coach Darren Lehmann demands.

“Boof (Lehmann) wants us bowling good pace so if I’m bowling 130kmh-125 kmh not going to pick me for that reason,” he said. “If I’m not bowling up to scratch I’m not going to be there.

“I want to be able to make sure I can get back to the form that I had last year and in previous years.”

But here’s the rub. Harris needs more time at the bowling crease but Australia’s selectors also want to take a cautious approach to their ageing swing and seam asset.

The world No.2-ranked bowler isn’t sure himself if he has enough time, starting with the Shield clash with NSW at the Gabba on Sunday, and then possibly another against Tasmania.

“Maybe I’ll need both of them,” he said. “Who knows?

“The thing for me is I’ve had five-and-a-half months out and if I try to get back to the way I was last bowling in two bowls it’s just not possible.”

It’s been eight months since Harris bowled Australia to a series-clinching victory over South Africa in Cape Town on his dodgy right knee, that had undergone a handful of previous operations.

Harris said his rehabilitation was beset with fears he may have been too old to return to the form and fitness required to add to his 24 Tests and 103 wickets, at 22.54.

“I must admit it’s been tough getting back,” he said. “It’s been harder this time.

“It’s the hardest rehab I’ve had to go through mentally and physically, questioning whether I can do it.

“The bottom line is I still want to play and I still think I’ve got something to give.

“I’ve still got unfinished business there especially with the Ashes (defence next year) and I want to make sure I can get there.”

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Hockey won’t harm economy with more cuts

Treasurer Joe Hockey won’t be panicked into making more budget cuts for fear of harming the economy.

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Such assurances came as a major US investment bank cut its Australian economic growth forecasts for this year and the next in anticipation of soft consumer spending.

Mr Hockey is due to hand down his mid-year budget review in December.

It will have to take into account an unexpected decline in export revenue due to a 30 per cent drop in iron ore prices and less tax revenue from lame wages growth.

Also, a number of measures from the May budget remain stuck in the Senate.

But Mr Hockey says the economy is still growing and he does not expect a bigger deficit next year.

“The starting point is that you shouldn’t write off our opportunities to get things through the parliament,” he told ABC television on Thursday.

He denied that was wishful thinking with a hostile Senate, pointing out the government had managed to negotiate deals on the carbon tax, direct action and the mining tax repeal.

The treasurer said the federal government was also working hard to open up new trade agreements in Asia to broaden the market.

“We are not going to do anything in the mid-year economic update that harms the Australian economy,” he also told ABC radio.

“It’s not about panic. It’s not about responding with a whole range of further cuts.”

It was about ensuring that problems were recognised and the next budget crafted appropriate solutions.

But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the treasurer needed to bring in a mini-budget now.

“His existing budget has sunk without trace,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Mr Hockey also faces the risk of slower consumer spending.

This is the key factor behind US bank JP Morgan trimming its Australian 2014 growth forecast to three per cent from 3.1 per cent and to 2.8 per cent from 3.3 per cent for 2015.

The bank’s chief economist in Australia, Stephen Walters, said consumer sentiment was brittle and the compression of household income was likely to linger into next year, particularly because some federal budget savings had been delayed.

Slower growth will result in the jobless rate reaching 6.5 per cent in 2015, superseding its previous estimate of 6.25 per cent.

“Fiscal savings measures stalled in the Senate may prompt officials to look elsewhere for savings, including at public sector employment levels,” Mr Walters says in a note to clients.

Gauges of consumer sentiment released this week showed a sluggish improvement in confidence.

Figures released on Thursday showed consumers are worried about the inflation outlook.

This was despite the recently released consumer price index easing to an annual pace of 2.3 per cent, comfortably within the Reserve Bank’s 2-3 per cent inflation target.

The Melbourne Institute consumer inflationary expectations index jumped to 4.1 per cent in November from 3.4 per cent previously, its highest level since May.

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