Monthly Archives: August 2019
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”.
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.
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.
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:
National Australia Bank is overhauling its complaints process for victims of dodgy financial advice amid growing calls for a royal commission into the sector.
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.
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.
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)
Parliamentary Budget Officer Phil Bowen says the economy is at risk unless the federal budget can be brought under control.
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.