AFL star Jurrah committed to stand trial

AFL football star Liam Jurrah will face trial over charges relating to the alleged attack of his cousin with a machete and assault of other people in an incident near Alice Springs earlier this year.

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Magistrate David Bamber accepted there was sufficient evidence the Melbourne Demons footballer assaulted four people, including his cousin Basil Jurrah, for the case to proceed to trial. He dismissed a charge against Jurrah of assaulting alleged victim Murray Woods.

The footballer and his two co-accused, Josiah Fry and Christopher Walker, will next appear before the Alice Springs Supreme Court on September 3. Counsel for Jurrah, John Tippett, QC, has said his client will plead not guilty at the September hearing.

It is expected Jurrah will appear at the hearing via video link.

“It would seem to me that there is clear evidence that the alleged victims other than Murray Woods were struck and received injuries and it would be open to a jury to find that they had been assaulted with the various weapons described,” Mr Bamber told the court.

Outside court Melbourne Demons football manager Josh Mahoney said that the club continued to support Jurrah and that the star had been well represented.

Outside court Mr Tippett said he thought his client was a target because he had a high public profile.

“I think it is the tall poppy syndrome and unfortunately my client is a victim of it,” Mr Tippett said.

He said the threshold of evidence needed at the preliminary hearing for the case to proceed to trial was so low it was bound to happen.

“My client is not guilty. He will be found not guilty,” Mr Tippett told reporters.

“He has a good case, but we move now from this jurisdiction into the Supreme Court where a trial will be held,” he said. Jurrah was bearing up well despite the strain, he said.

“For a person, any person in such a position, you would expect them to be in worse shape, but he is a tough guy,” Mr Tippett said. Under bail conditions Jurrah must return to Melbourne and not travel to the Northern Territory unless it is to appear in court.

“Liam will return to Melbourne as per his bail conditions, where he will continue his preparation and recovery from his ankle injury and hopefully resuming to play in the short term,” Mr Mahoney said.

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Lawyers doubt mining tax challenge will get up

A High Court challenge to the federal government’s mining tax has fresh support after the Queensland government said it would intervene in the action, despite its decision being branded a waste of money.

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Treasurer Wayne Swan described his home state’s decision on Fortescue Metals Group challenge to the minerals resource rent tax (MRRT) as “futile”, but Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said it was a reasonable to take action against a “bad” tax.

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the Liberal National Party (LNP) government viewed the tax as a threat to the state’s resources industry and its “interested party” intervention could cost up to $300,000.

“Yes, the state is in a dire financial situation. But we can’t just sit back and let the federal government continue to tax the people of Queensland,” Mr Bleijie told reporters on Monday.

Fortescue, whose case is based on the constitutional argument that the tax preferences one state over another and restricts a state’s ability to encourage mining, welcomed Queensland’s involvement.

The High Court will conduct a directions hearing on the matter in coming weeks. But Mr Swan is “very confident” the MRRT, which came into force on July 1, will withstand any legal action. “The challenge is futile,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

The Queensland branch of the Environmental Defenders Office said it was a “complete waste of taxpayers’ money” which could lead to a costs order against Queensland.

“At a time when the state government is slashing funding from the budget, it seems bizarre to throw money at a High Court case that looks doomed to fail,” principal solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg said in a statement. But Mr Bleijie told AAP in a statement said the state government was intervening in the Fortescue challenge, rather than mounting its own challenge.

“The government will be represented by crown law and the solicitor-general. These measures will ensure Queensland taxpayers will not be out of pocket,” he said.

A similar tactic is planned by the nation’s biggest mining state. West Australian Premier Colin Barnett on Monday confirmed the state would appear before the High Court during the Fortescue case to present its point of view.

Mr Barnett says the tax is unconstitutional because natural resources belong to the state, not the commonwealth.

“I’m sure a state solicitor from Western Australia and from Queensland, they will work together to make sure that they protect the constitutional right of the states to own the natural resource,” he told reporters.

Mr Abbott confirmed the coalition’s promise to repeal the 30 per cent tax on the super profits of coal and iron ore companies when it wins government.

“There is no doubt that the mining tax particularly targets the resource rich states, and if the states in question wish to challenge in court, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for them to do,” he told reporters in Perth.

Revenue from the impost will fund tax initiatives for small business, increase family payments, allow for a rise in the guaranteed superannuation contribution, and boost infrastructure spending.

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Robertson makes election promises

Standing before 850 delegates at NSW Labor’s annual conference at Sydney Town Hall, Mr Robertson praised the protesters who held a five-day demonstration outside Grafton Correctional Centre on the NSW north coast, which ended early on Thursday morning.

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More than 100 jobs have been lost following a state government decision to transfer medium-security prisoners from the 119-year-old jail to a new wing of Cessnock jail, downgrading Grafton jail to a holding facility for remand prisoners awaiting court appearances.

“They gave it everything they had and they deserve a round of applause,” Mr Robertson said.

“And Labor in government will reopen Grafton jail.”

Mr Robertson also took aim at a Shooters Party deal with the government to allow the hunting of feral animals in 79 national parks, to enable the privatisation of power generators.

“We will not stand by while you put people’s lives and our environment at risk,” he said.

“When Labor is elected, we will overturn this decision and ban hunting in national parks immediately.”

While an election is not due until March 2015, Mr Robertson announced a Labor state government would fund 800 new university scholarships to train science and maths teachers.

But the standing ovation and thunderous applause came when Mr Robertson announced he would scrap state government changes to rein in Workcover’s $4 billion deficit.

“Just as we fought the passage of these laws on the floor of parliament until three o’clock in the morning, we will fight these changes until the day Barry O’Farrell is thrown out of office.”

He dedicated the promise to injured worker Denise, at the conference, who faces losing her house after she was removed from Workcover coverage.

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AFL, Suns to discuss Hunt scandal

The AFL will be in regular contact with the Gold Coast Suns as nervous officials assess the fallout from Karmichael Hunt’s cocaine scandal.

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The code-hopping former Suns player has received a notice to appear in court on March 5 for allegedly supplying the drug.

The period in question was between September 1 and October 3 last year, when Hunt technically was still at the Suns.

But the Suns say they are confident in the protocols in place at the club despite speculation linking them to the scandal.

“There are bits and pieces that are out there, but there’s nothing substantial,” Suns football manager Marcus Ashcroft told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

“Of course we’d be disappointed (if they were), we’re not going to deny that, but we’re also confident in what we actually do from day to day.”

Hunt has switched to rugby union with the Queensland Reds, while the NRL’s Gold Coast Titans have also been dragged into the saga with five players to face similar charges stemming from a Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission investigation.

Hunt is the only current or former AFL player so far implicated.

“Let me stay away from specifics – we don’t have those,” AFL operations manager Mark Evans said on Monday.

“But it’s fair to say we’ll be having plenty of conservations just to make sure Gold Coast Suns are dealing with this appropriately within their playing group.

“There are discussions between the AFL and Gold Coast – and more broadly to other clubs as well, who are quite interested in what’s going on.”

Evans said the AFL has few details surrounding the allegations.

“I will need to be mindful of not jumping to any conclusions or going anywhere where I shouldn’t,” he said at a media conference on Monday.

The league’s football department boss also defended the AFL’s controversial three-strikes illicit drugs policy.

“One thing it has done is it’s raised very good discussion between the league and clubs and their players – that can only be beneficial,” he said.

“But we would never say we’re immune to any of these issues.”

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Vic greyhound boss quits over live baiting

The chairman of Victoria’s greyhound racing body has quit because he can no longer be certain the use of live animals to train greyhounds is restricted to a small group of trainers.

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Greyhound Racing Victoria chair Peter Caillard said he firmly believed the practice was not widespread, but admitted it could be wider than the suspended trainers from a private Tooradin training facility, who he called immoral.

“Despite assurance, I can no longer be satisfied that live baiting was restricted to the small band at Tooradin.”

Mr Caillard, brought into the role during controversy over betting at GRV, said he was distressed to discover that live baiting was occurring in recent times.

“Had this practice been brought to my attention earlier then it could have been stopped earlier. It was not and I did not,” he said in a statement on Monday.

The board of Greyhound Racing NSW and its CEO agreed to step down last week after revelations of live animals being used to “blood” greyhounds in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

Mr Caillard said a chairman had to be accountable and it was in the industry’s best interests that a new person was appointed to the position.

Mr Caillard became chairman in 2011, amid investigations into a culture of staff betting on the sport during business hours that led to the board being dissolved and almost all of the senior management team being replaced with people from outside the industry.

“However, the extensive changes at GRV were not enough to prevent the type of sickening practices seen at the privately-owned Tooradin trial track,” he said.

He said live baiting went against his personal values and the vast majority of industry participants shared his repulsion at the illegal practice.

Fifteen Victorian trainers have been suspended amid investigations into live baiting.

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Hunt barred from training with Reds

Karmichael Hunt has been barred from training with his Queensland Reds teammates until he faces drug-related charges in court next week.

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But the Super Rugby franchise has stopped short of standing down the cross-code star, and has chosen to keep him on a “modified” training regime.

The Reds announced earlier on Monday that Hunt would not be considered for selection for their clash with the Highlanders on Friday night.

“He won’t be training with the team in this next period of time,” Graham said.

“We’ll certainly keep him on a modified program but that’s more to do with his strength and conditioning, and keeping him ticking over.”

Hunt was last week issued with a notice to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court on Thursday, March 5, where he will answer to allegations he arranged to supply cocaine for personal use or to be passed on to friends or colleagues.

Gold Coast Titans players Beau Falloon and Jamie Dowling will appear in court on the same day, while representative stars Greg Bird and Dave Taylor, together with winger Kalifa Faifai Loa, will appear on March 9.

All five Titans players have been officially stood down and put on notice by the NRL club, but it’s clear the Reds are taking a far more cautious approach with Hunt.

Graham said he was comfortable with the course of action taken by the Queensland Rugby Union, given the period in question was between September 1 to October 3 last year – when Hunt was still with the AFL’s Gold Coast Suns.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the incident happened in another sport and we’ve inherited it, as such,” he said.

“Anyone that read the report last week understands the timeline. At that point Karmichael wasn’t with us at all.

“I don’t believe it’s going to be a wider issue within our team.”

The Reds will make further decisions about their star recruit’s future after Hunt’s day in court.

Graham said he was yet to discuss Hunt’s new “modified” program directly with the player, and it’s unclear whether the 28-year-old will be permitted to come to Ballymore or be forced to train elsewhere.

But Graham said he had offered Hunt his full support.

“I feel strongly that everyone should be supported through things like this,” he said.

“I think we’ve made the best decision in the interests of Karmichael.

“And I think we’ve made a very good decision in the interests of the team and the organisation.”

The Reds, who pushed aside Hunt’s crisis to defeat the Western Force on Saturday night, have a short turnaround this week ahead of Friday’s clash with the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The injury-crippled team will get just two opportunities to train together before leaving for New Zealand.

But skipper James Slipper is confident Queensland’s Super Rugby campaign will not be derailed.

“It’s a distraction in a sense … but as a playing group, the way we played on the weekend was with a lot of character and pride,” he said.

“We addressed it last week briefly and we’re just trying to move on.”

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Greyhound Racing Victoria chairman quits

The chairman of Victoria’s greyhound racing body has quit because he can no longer be certain the use of live animals to train greyhounds is restricted to a small group of trainers.

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Greyhound Racing Victoria chair Peter Caillard said he firmly believed the practice was not widespread, but admitted it could be wider than the suspended trainers from a private Tooradin training facility, who he called immoral.

“Despite assurance, I can no longer be satisfied that live baiting was restricted to the small band at Tooradin.”

Mr Caillard, brought into the role during controversy over betting at GRV, said he was distressed to discover that live baiting was occurring in recent times.

“Had this practice been brought to my attention earlier then it could have been stopped earlier.

It was not and I did not,” he said in a statement on Monday. The board of Greyhound Racing NSW and its CEO agreed to step down last week after revelations of live animals being used to “blood” greyhounds in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

Mr Caillard said a chairman had to be accountable and it was in the industry’s best interests that a new person was appointed to the position.

Mr Caillard became chairman in 2011, amid investigations into a culture of staff betting on the sport during business hours that led to the board being dissolved and almost all of the senior management team being replaced with people from outside the industry.

“However, the extensive changes at GRV were not enough to prevent the type of sickening practices seen at the privately-owned Tooradin trial track,” he said.

He said live baiting went against his personal values and the vast majority of industry participants shared his repulsion at the illegal practice. Fifteen Victorian trainers have been suspended amid investigations into live baiting.

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Don’t forget farmers after storm: industry

As recovery efforts continue in Queensland’s worst cyclone-hit townships, agricultural groups are urging those in charge not to forget the state’s farmers.

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Yeppoon, which copped the brunt of the storm as it made landfall as a category five system, is a diverse horticultural region that produces tropical fruits, sweet potatoes, pineapples and mangoes.

Meanwhile, there are some 31 dairy farms around Rockhampton and central Queensland.

The storm tore roofs torn off farmhouses, destroyed irrigation equipment and ruined crops as it passed through this area.

There has also been significant damage through the Callide Valley, where cotton, grain and herbs are produced.

Then there’s the added concern of livestock health, with wet conditions increasing the likelihood of conditions such as mastitis.

“We appreciate the severe damage that has hit the towns of Rockhampton and Yeppoon,” Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation president Brian Tessmann said.

“But we need to ensure that farmers and small outlying communities aren’t forgotten.”

While it’s still too early to know the full extent of the damage across these agricultural zones, AgForce Queensland’s general president Grant Maudsley said initial reports suggested some areas appeared to have been hit hard.

“We know members in places throughout the Callide and Burnett, as well as Yeppoon, Rockhampton, Gympie and the Southern Coast regions, have suffered significant damage to both homes and property infrastructure,” he said in a statement on Monday.

He said the group would survey its members in coming days to get a better idea of damage to agricultural land, crops and livestock.

Queensland Farmers’ Federation chief executive Dan Galligan said flooding associated with the cyclone would also create long-term challenges for farmers.

“The recovery effort will be enormous,” he said.

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Titan stars distraught as club looks ahead

Gold Coast coach Neil Henry says Titans players are trying to focus on their upcoming NRL season opener despite the drugs charges that have left five of their teammates “distraught”.

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Henry says those players stood down after being served with notices to appear in a Gold Coast court next month on cocaine supply and possession charges are concerned about their futures.

State of Origin stars David Taylor and Greg Bird, along with Beau Falloon, Kalifa Faifai Loa and Jamie Dowling, face charges stemming from a Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission investigation into an alleged drug trafficking syndicate.

Former Titan Joe Vickery and Queensland Reds star Karmichael Hunt are also among those facing court next month.

Henry says he has spoken with the quintet, who are upset at the situation they’ve put the club and the code in.

“They’re certainly in varying degrees of being distraught about the situation,” he said.

“It’s only human nature. It’s a lot of pressure on the players.

“They understand the seriousness of the allegations but they’re bound by their legal representatives not to say much at this stage.”

The Titans got back to business on Monday as the rest of the squad took part in a recovery session following Saturday’s 30-10 pre-season trial loss to North Queensland in Cairns.

The session was held at a public swimming pool on the Gold Coast.

None of the players would comment to the waiting media on the situation, which Henry admits is a distraction.

He said that, with less than two weeks until their first NRL fixture against the Wests Tigers in Robina on March 7, he wasn’t in a position to seek out replacements.

He also said the club hadn’t approached the NRL for special salary cap dispensation to seek room to sign more players.

“We’ll wait and see from what sanctions come out of that, whether we’ve lost players permanently or players are stood down or what have you,” he said.

“You’d hope if we’re losing players there’d be some way that we would have some cap dispensation so that we could move in the market to fill the void.”

The Titans are still seeking a permanent training base after walking away from their arrangement with the Southport School on Friday in the wake of the drug allegations.

This week the team will train in Kingscliffe on Tuesday but that is a temporary fix and no venue has been confirmed for Thursday’s session.

Sponsors and the NRL have re-affirmed their commitment to the club in then wake of the scandal, with NRL chief executive Dave Smith saying it was a minority at the club that had transgressed.

The club is yet to decide whether to sign off on a proposed purpose-built training centre in partnership with the Gold Coast City Council in Coomera or to be based at the Parkwood International Golf Course.

The council said they remained committed to supporting the Titans, while Parkwood managing director Luke Altschwager told the Gold Coast Bulletin the scandal hadn’t affected negotiations.

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PM outlines moves to revoke foreign fighters’ citizenship

Dual citizens involved in terrorism and “hate preachers” such as Hizb ut-Tahrir are in the sights of federal government plans to toughen up national security.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned the threat from terrorism at home and abroad, amid the rise of groups such as Islamic State, is now much greater and becoming harder to combat.

In his first national security statement, delivered at the Australian Federal Police headquarters in Canberra, Mr Abbott said the nation must also confront a growing threat from home-grown extremism.

“By any measure the threat to Australia has worsened,” he said on Monday.

The number of Australians fighting with terror groups such as IS, as well as known sympathisers and supporters of extremism, had dramatically increased, as had the potential threat from home-grown terrorism.

The number of high priority investigations had risen to 400 – double what it was 12 months ago.

“Even if the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq stopped today, there is now an Australian cohort of hardened jihadists who are intent on radicalising and influencing others,” Mr Abbott said.

Under proposed changes, the Citizenship Act will be amended to strengthen the power of authorities to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals.

“Australians who take up arms with terrorist groups, especially while Australian military personnel are engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, have sided against their country and should be treated accordingly,” Mr Abbott said.

But while there are already limited powers that allow citizenship to be revoked, there have been just 16 cases since 1949.

Australian nationals would also risk losing privileges – including restricting travel, denying access to consular services and access to welfare – if they were found to be involved in terrorism. Immigration department boss Michael Pezzullo said the government was looking to expand the grounds upon which revocation of citizenship could occur.

The department will also conduct a review that will include recommendations on strengthening the legal and policy framework around visas and citizenship. Mr Abbott again singled out the Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir, saying terrorism advocacy laws would be strengthened to target “hate preachers”.

“Organisations and individuals blatantly spreading discord and division – such as Hizb ut-Tahrir – should not do so with impunity,” he said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar said his organisation had operated in Australia for over two decades without contravening a single law.

“Tony Abbott says he will take action against `hate preachers’, naming my organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir.

But we have already been scrutinised for 15 years,” he wrote in a comment piece published on Monday by The Guardian.

“Every investigation has produced nothing untoward, nothing prosecutable.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the proposed measures deserved careful consideration, but liberties of citizens should only be reduced when existing arrangements proved inadequate.

But Australian National University terrorism expert Clarke Jones described the proposals as window dressing, saying they were unlikely to make Australia more secure.

“In reality, new measures may even go the other way and exasperate the underlying causes of violent extremism and further damage Australia’s already fragile social cohesion,” he said.

Mr Abbott also said the national terror alert system would be upgraded and a national counter-terrorism co-ordinator would be appointed.

New programs would also be introduced to counter terrorist “propaganda” and the ability of IS to churn out up to 100,000 social media messages a day.

Mr Abbott described it as the “contagion that’s infecting people and grooming them for terrorism”. 

Summary: what the terrorism review recommended

The government quarantine security agencies such as ASIO, the AFP and ASIS from its efficiency dividendDevelop a new counter-terrorism strategy in close consultation with states and territoriesAppoint a National Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator to chair a new counter terrorism group advising governmentSeek state and federal agreement on a new Counter Violent Extremism strategy to tackle radicalisation in AustraliaEstablish and expand community and public-private partnerships to better reach at risk and radicalised individualsThat the Attorney-General’s Department coordinate the government response to foreign fighters returning to Australia

Read the full text of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s speech here:

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NAB widens financial advice probe

National Australia Bank is overhauling its complaints process for victims of dodgy financial advice amid growing calls for a royal commission into the sector.

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NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn says the bank will speed up customer complaints processes and bring in independent advisers to oversee any investigations and compensation payments.

The move comes after the bank’s confession on Friday that it had paid out up to $15 million to 750 customers during the past five years because of bad advice from NAB Wealth.

Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen on Monday added his voice to calls by Independent senator Nick Xenophon, Nationals Senator John Williams and Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson for a royal commission into the industry.

Mr Thorburn said it was up to the government to decide whether to hold an inquiry, and he is committed to quickly fixing problems within NAB Wealth.

“If they decide on one, obviously we’re going to cooperate just like we did with similar types of initiatives in the past,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

NAB has sacked 37 financial advisers after they were found to have provided bad advice to clients.

The scandal follows similar cases at Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie Bank.

After those scandals erupted last year, a Senate inquiry recommended a royal commission, but this was rejected by the Abbott government.

Mr Thorburn said NAB had to “lift the bar” with a more transparent process for complaints about any of its 1,661 financial advisers.

He said the bank was going back and examining all the files of the 37 sacked advisers as part of a broader review to establish how many customers received bad advice.

“It’s clear we have some practices and standards we need to lift,” Mr Thorburn said.

“What we are going to do is when we see a problem, we will fix it. We have to be more proactive.”

Since the 2014 Senate inquiry, the government has established an industry-wide financial adviser register which the Australian Securities and Investments Commission expects to have up and running at the end of March.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also flagged last week the possibility of moving financial planners from a diploma-based qualification to a degree-base qualification.

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Hunt to stay on the sidelines pending drug hearing

The 28-year-old, a potential Wallabies bolter for the World Cup, was stood down by the Reds last week after it emerged he was one of four people given notice by Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission to appear in court on March 5.

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Hunt missed the Reds’ win over Western Force over the weekend and will continue to stay on the sidelines pending his hearing, Carmichael said in a statement.

“Following extensive consultation with Karmichael over the weekend, we have determined that it continues to be best for Karmichael’s welfare that he is not available for selection this Friday,” he said.

“As this highly complicated matter is due before the courts and is part of a wider and ongoing investigation by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission, we will continue not to prejudice the player’s legal or contractual rights and we will apply the principles of natural justice.”

Reds coach Richard Graham said later on Monday that he supported Hunt though the player would not train with the rest of the team while under the legal cloud.

“We’ll certainly keep him on a modified programme but that’s more to do with his strength and conditioning, and keeping him ticking over,” he told reporters.

One of the best-known athletes in the country after his previous careers as a rugby league international and in the indigenous football code Australian Rules, Hunt has played just one Super Rugby match since joining the Reds at the start of this year.

A QCCC statement released on Friday alleged the four people summoned to court “arranged for the supply of cocaine for personal use or to on-supply cocaine to friends and colleagues between June and December 2014”.

Hunt was on the roster of Aussie Rules club Gold Coast Suns last year.

The Queensland Rugby Union claimed the alleged offences had actually occurred between Sept. 1 and Oct. 3, 2014 — before he started training with the Reds in late November.

Carmichael said the QRU had a duty of care to Hunt, meaning the player may be allowed to continue playing with the Reds regardless of the outcome.

The QCCC investigation has also rocked Australia’s National Rugby League competition, with five Gold Coast Titans players also charged with drugs offences.

The five include Australian internationals Greg Bird and David Taylor.

Another former Titans player has also been charged.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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Economy at risk without budget action: PBO

Parliamentary Budget Officer Phil Bowen says the economy is at risk unless the federal budget can be brought under control.

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Mr Bowen on Monday gave evidence before a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on the medium and long-term risks for the Australian economy.

“The requirement for fiscal consolidation certainly exists,” Mr Bowen said.

“This is not a situation we can continue to live with over the longer term.

“Increasing debt risks crowding out private sector investment and negatively impacting economic growth.”

He said the international economic outlook was “at the very least, uncertain” and a further fall in the terms of trade would affect the budget.

Labour productivity was also a concern, given that over the past 30 years it had rarely risen above the long-term average of 1.5 per cent.

He said the mid-year fiscal and economic outlook projection of payments falling to 24.7 per cent of GDP assumed there would be no new net spending over the next decade.

But this ran counter to “public expectations of continuing improvements in government services”.

Over the past 13 years, policy decisions by government have on average added two per cent of GDP annually to payments.

Mr Bowen said payments projections included unlegislated savings amounting to $18.9 billion in 2024/25.

If the savings were not achieved, projected net debt in 2024/25 would rise from 4.7 per cent projected in MYEFO to 9.5 per cent of GDP.

“The medium-term outlook is vulnerable and history shows that significant economic downturns can impact quite quickly and materially on the budget and have fairly long-lasting impacts,” Mr Bowen said.

He said there was “little or no fiscal buffer” for the government and any downturn would put further pressure on debt.

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